Jivya Soma Mashe: ‘It’s the Warlis who make these paintings’

Jivya Soma Mashe: ‘It’s the Warlis who make these paintings’


There are many Adivasis, but it’s the Warlis
who make these paintings. They’re called Warli paintings. There are many Adivasis, but few Warlis. In 1971, when Bhaskar Kulkarni [artist] took Baba [father] and a few women artists to the Crafts Museum in Delhi, that’s when it [Warli painting on paper] started. And that’s how it started getting known. This is a bamboo stick and this is
a stick from a date palm tree. The bamboo stick is the best. We don’t use every kind of bamboo. If it’s too hollow, the stick doesn’t turn out right. The stick made with a dense bamboo is very good. So we mostly use sticks from the date palm tree. I started painting with this date palm stick.
It’s very good. Interviewer: The canvas they use in the cities… It’s ready-made. It’s not rough… Then, what’s special about this kind of Warli painting with these perfect strokes? By applying a layer of dung, this canvas
has texture, unevenness. The traditional ridges and gaps on this…you won’t see that on the canvas [used in the city]. Because the cloth on which the painting is made
[in the city] is stretched and it looks very smooth. The design doesn’t stand out on it. Unlike what we’ve done here, it just won’t stand out. In 1976, Baba got the National Award [for Tribal Arts] and since then, Warli paintings became popular. Customers began coming to our home to buy paintings and Baba began to think of it as something [important]. Even if the painting didn’t get viewed, he’d work under the light of a lamp, close by, near Maharwada. He would take care of the farm [as a labourer] during the day and at night paint on paper under dim light. Whether or not the paintings got sold, he would keep at it and pile up the painted sheets of paper. It was Bhaskar Kulkarni who took 22 of those paintings and gave them to Jehangir Art Gallery [in Mumbai]. Then there was an exhibition [of his paintings]. The Crafts Museum has bought those 22 paintings and conserved them as a collection. We got the land and the house through these paintings. Baba didn’t have any ancestral land at all. Sudhakar Yadav from the JJ School of Art, Mumbai, gathered all of his certificates and awards, took Xeroxes, and submitted them for the Padma Shri. We got to know from the news and papers that Baba was going to get the Padma Shri. Earlier, I would paint with rice flour. Then Bhaskar Kulkarni came and he guided me. He said, ‘Use poster colours’. He brought me these poster colours. He’s the one who started this. People think that if you draw something on a cloth,
it’s a Warli painting. Our painting can be recognised
by its simple and straight angles. But they [non-Warli artists] don’t know how to make paintings with our gods, they don’t know our stories. They only think about filling the canvas.
If it looks good, people buy it. They [non-Warli artists] know that chauks [square forms] are painted during Warli weddings. But they don’t know the meaning it contains. Now the month of June is close. What do we do while sowing rice? Once the seeds are sown, the two main members of the family stop consuming onions, chickoos, bananas… They have to do this. But why is that? My father would paint about this – why it is this way or what happens if one doesn’t do this. These things must be followed because they are part of our tradition. As you go towards Silvasa, you’ll see the Palgut goddess painted in the chauk. You’ll see her painted during weddings. As you go towards Mumbai, you’ll find that Adivasis have forgotten this and have started painting Ganpati instead. Painting Ganpati is not bad, but we have traditionally painted the Palgut goddess. I want to ask: What should we name this art? It belongs to the Warlis. It should be called Warli art.
The government should do this. Sudhakar Yadav gathered all of us
and tried to raise awareness… but not everyone from the Warli community
was able to come together. People should unite and do things together. Sudhakar Yadav use to say that paintings
by Warlis are Warli paintings. Others can paint like the Warlis,
but let their work be called something else.

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