Warli Painting

India's global art, proudly tribal art

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The Warli art form is similar to the pre-historic cave paintings in its execution. These extremely rudimentary paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. While men and women are depicted in almost identical fashion, the only differentiator is the little knot of hair in the form of a bun, that indicates women.
Stylistically, Warli Paintings can be recognized by the fact that they are painted on an austere mud base using one color, white, with occasional dots in red and yellow. The white pigment is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding agent. This sobriety is offset by the ebullience of their content. Traditionally, when painting the mud walls, they use a bamboo stick chewed at the end, to make it work like a paintbrush. Even now, when they paint on cloth, they use a narrow stick dipped in white rice flour paste.
Unlike the realism of Kishangarh Paintings, the themes in Warli paintings are highly repetitive and symbolic. Many of the Warli paintings that represent Palghat, the god of marriage and fertility, often include a horse used by the bride and groom.
Each painting is usually an entire scene that contains various elements of nature including people, animals, trees, hills etc. The thread that binds all these loose elements can be events like a marriage, a dance, sowing, harvesting or hunting. Different varieties of trees are drawn in detail forming intricate decorative patterns. Birds, squirrels, monkeys, snakes and other animals are also depicted, frequently in action. Other elements in nature like streams and rocks are also featured. The 'Tree of Life' and the 'Tarpa' dance are significant images often seen in Warli art. The Tarpa is a trumpet like instrument and many Warli paintings will have a tarpa player surrounded by drummers and dancing men and women.
The artists have recently started to draw straight lines in their paintings. These days, even men have taken to painting and they are often done on Handmade Paper incorporating traditional decorative Warli motifs with modern elements such as the bicycle etc.

Warli art - tribal art


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