Friday, January 26, 2007

Indian women - Art in daily life

Somehow, when you talk about Indian art, you think of exquisite bronze sculpture or fine wood carving or Mughal miniatures...and you forget the everyday beauty that Indian women create in their homes, all across the land.

I am stunned by the variety and richness of Indian folk art whenever I encounter it.

How can one contiguous land mass spawn so many diverse styles, so many forms of aesthetic expression?

The point came home to me yet again when I saw a collection of photos of everyday life in Indian villages. The photographer is Dr. Stephen Huyler, an American who has spent 30 years in India, and published several books. The photo above is of a small hut in Kutch, Gujarat. It is from his book, Painted Prayers.

Here are some more photos from his collection: this one below is from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. I was struck by the sophistication of the lady's sense of aesthetic - her eye for form and shape and contrast is undeniable. The way she is making her home rise from its desert surroundings is just stunning.

And here is another photo from Sawai Madhopur, on the outskirts of Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary. Walls and floors in this part of India are often decorated with elaborate drawings. I've seen life in that area of Rajasthan - the land is arid, life is hard I'm sure. And in the middle of it all is someone creating beauty and serenity.

And this, the last one below, from Tamil Nadu - what went through her mind, as she drew this? Did she feel the beauty? I have drawn smaller versions of these myself, with rice powder and rice paste, and I know how engrossing the activity is, and how much you can lose yourself in it.

These are just a small sample from Dr. Huyler's photos. He is writing another book now, called India's Daughters: Art and Identity. In his own words, this books is "a profile of 20 different Indian women from diverse backgrounds and professions all over India. Each is in some way an artist, although not all would consider themselves as such. It is a much more personal survey than Painted Prayers, attempting to give voice to Indian women's empowerment through their own words, stories and art."

I'm looking forward to it.


Mumbai Guy said...

Sometimes I think all these beautiful people and cultures exists only on paper. Wish someday I could meet them in person before they fade away into modern world.

Nice post you have here.

sambar42 said...

That photograph of the mami putting kolam is priceless.
Also the Jaisalmer one. Quite abstract. I didn't know that our art leaned towards the abstract as well.

Meenakshi said...

Just back from a trip to Ranthambore. Saw the village walls all across Sawai Madhopur. Incredibly beautiful, reminded me of Warli paintings. Very stylised and intricate.

Surya said...

Wonderful post. Wish there would be a way to bring Indian art more into the limelight, in a way that benefits artisans.

Recently, I visited a handicrafts mela in India, and was struck by the amazing works they had up for sale, some for even less than ten bucks. There is so much talent in Indian villages, that doesn't even make it to our own cities, let alone outside of India.

The Bosworths said...

Hi Deepa, just fell upon your blog. It looks great. Have just travelled through Chennai and Mumbai - wish I'd seen your site before. I am an English traveller on a 3 month tour of India. If you would like any info on what I think are travellers needs etc. then let me know.

There is so little info in India on the net. Check out these sites in South East Asia - (shows how to make money via advertising)

It has everything from accommodation and city info. India so needs something like this.

Email me for more info:

Jai said...

kudos to the Doc. It has been my ever persisting dream to record such stances of art and culture that continues to fade by.

The story of the untold basak tangail weaver, the dying art of goldsmithing by the basaks, the tribal communities of maharashtra are buried under the heaths of consumerism. Nor is such art taught in schools. May be the gaming industry should "copy'( for a lack of another word and turn them into the digital art industry. Atleast something stays by. However the intangible knowledge can still be not captured by the every blowing and booming knowledge management industry !

stiviji said...

Hey, Deepa. Stephen Huyler here. I am so thrilled and touched by your blog site! Thanks so much for your thoughtful introduction to my work (and it goes without saying, to the remarkable work of these Indian village women. And I am also so appreciative of the many comments out there by other bloggers.

As you noted, I am in process of working on a follow-up book on the same material, but in far more depth. India's Daughters is a collection of profiles of 20 different Indian women taken from as many different parts of the country and different walks of life and economy as I could show in one book. It really is a book about Indian women's identity and empowerment aimed at foreign readers who have very limited access to this information. Most press and other media in the west about Indian women shows only the inequality and abuses without also showing their strengths. In this book, I try to show both as I have found them in my 36 years in India.
All of the women chosen create art at one point or another during their year, but I feature it just as a means for talking about deeper issues.
I have just finished the final edit of the manuscript and submitted the final choice of photographs to the book's designer. It will be published by Mapin (Ahmdedabad) August (2008).

Brina said...

Thanks for writing this.