10 New Zealand ladies discover the simple beauty of Warli Art at a workshop with artist Rashmika Mehta in Mumbai.
India’s art story is as extensive and diverse as the country itself. Outside of India, we may be familiar with the intricate Rajput miniature painting style of Rajasthan but across India, the richness of mythology and folklore means that there is a myriad of beautiful tribal art forms to discover.
In Mumbai, the ladies on my last India, Fabric Food & Fabulous Tour discovered Warli, a tribal art that dates to 3000BC and is indigenous to the state of Maharashtra (Mumbai, formally Bombay is the state capital). Using the geometric vocabulary of a circle, triangle and a square, Warli is beautifully simple in its depiction of human life and indigenous customs & traditions.
Simple & Accessible to Non-Artists
Given this simplicity, it is an accessible art form for those who label themselves as ‘non’ artists (I am the first to put myself in this camp!). This is something that my good friend creative & sustainable tourism entrepreneur and passionate Mumbaiker Harshvardhan Singh Tanvar is hoping will work in Warli’s favour. Like many tribal art forms worldwide, Warli is threatened by the progresses of modern life and the transformative effect it is having on traditional cultures.
Traditionally Warli art was painted by women on to the walls of huts contructed with branches, earth and cow dung. This provided the often red ochre background with the white paint created via a mixture of rice paste and gum. Bamboo sticks were then chewed to create a rudimentary paint brush. Paintings were only created on special occasions, such as to celebrate a wedding or harvest.
In the 1970’s Jivya Soma Mashe took this ritualistic tribal artform and started painting Warli for artistic virtues and creating artworks for commercial sale. Both his son’s are also talented preponents of this artfrom.
Creating Our Warli Stories
Our small group of 10 ladies was led by local Warli artist Rashmika Mehta to create our own Warli art. Grandchildren, childhood memories, life on the farm, hobbies were all captured on our canvases. Each of us drawing inspiration from the walls of Warli art in the gallery space set up as our studio for the morning.
Today artists use a mix of traditional and modern techniques, Rashmika introduced us to examples where traditional methods, including using a cow dung wash has been used to create the background colour on paper and cotton while the detail was created using modern paints and paintbrushes. For our artworks stretched canvas was prepared with a rich brown acrylic background with white acrylic paint and various sized brushes used to create our own Warli ‘stories’.
It was a wonderfully creative calm pause near the end of our busy adventure of amazing food, hospitality, on and off the beaten track sightseeing, shopping and hands-on workshops.
Natasha Sinclair, owner of Indafrica, leads an annual small group Women’s Only India: Fabric, Food & Fabulous Tour. For more information about this tour or a unique tailor-made tour to India please contact us.