Warli Art - An Ancient Treasure

Published on 13 May 2016 . 3 min read

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Art is never finished, only abandoned
-Leonardo Da Vinci

Art is not just a nice thing to have or do in your free time, it defines our lineage and provides an account of our history to the next generation. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found in western Maharashtra and Gujarat border, over centuries they have restored and nurtured their culture through art. The Warli tribe is famous for their beautiful and unique style of painting which reflects the close association between human communities and nature.

I was looking for an interesting travel story and was pleasantly surprised by a village situated just 3 hours away from Mumbai holding the treasure and history of the traditional Warli paintings. They lead a humble life and usually live in large families to have a strong support system as agriculture is their main occupation. One of the most striking features about their paintings is that they used it as a substitute for words, Varli was their unspoken language of communication. The drawings depict strong community activities like women dancing, good harvest, celebrations, chores, animals in fields etc.

The Technique: There is always a central motif which is surrounded by activities like hunting, farming, fishing. They have a very interesting way of portraying characters through basic stick figures, circles and triangles. Elements of nature are very important to the Warli artist, sun, moon, trees, water, mountains are symbols of god and positivity. They are used to add elegance to the walls of their huts and local schools during festivals.

Traditionally, their walls are made out of bamboos, soil and branches - this forms the base of the painting, the white paste is a mixture of rice, water and gum for binding. Warli artists are trained at a very young age but as time progresses the artists are finding it difficult to sustain themselves as a result a lot of them have started moving to nearby cities in search of work. This is leaving the Warli tradition hollow, if there could be a way to commercialise their art without hurting their tradition we can help restore this beautiful expression of art.

Inspite of being in such close proximity to Mumbai, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern society. These villages do not need urbanisation, they need our support to retain their roots. Warli belongs to the villages, with the use of digital technology and social entrepreneurship we can showcase the traditional and rustic art form to the world. This will also help get economic stability to the Warli artists and retain their authentic touch. Indian as well as international designers are finding interesting ways to showcase Warli sketches in their runway designs, architects are also making an attempt to incorporate traditional wall art in their designs but the percentage in very small.

As humans, one of our strongest emotion is to empathise. I witnessed the most genuine smiles, hospitality and human spirit in this village. We should make a conscious effort to safeguard our artistic roots.

Warli Image
Pooja Kochar
Pooja Kochar is the founder of 30ish and PhotoblogHER, she is a blogger, photographer and positive body image activist. After spending almost a decade working with India’s IT giant she decided to bet on herself and embrace entrepreneurship.

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