Durga Bai Vyam and Popularisation of the Gond Art
Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta, Associate Fellow, VIF

India is home to several tribal communities, each with its unique culture, language, art, and customs. Tribal arts and cultures are diverse and rich, representing the distinctive customs, way of life, and legacy of the numerous indigenous tribal people dispersed across the country. There are continuous efforts to protect the tribal art and culture and raise awareness and appreciation for their distinctive contributions to Indian culture. The Indian government has established many institutions and started several programmes. A few of these ventures include funding for tribal festivals, setting up a museum dedicated to tribal freedom warriors, documenting indigenous practices, and creating a digital repository to conserve and promote the rich cultural history of the tribes. Additionally, several of the tribal skilled artisans have made significant contributions to fostering tribal art and culture.

For her contribution to carrying on the legacy of tribal art, Durga Bai Vyam, an Indian artist renowned for her detailed and bright Gond art, received the fourth highest civilian honour in India, the Padma Shri, in 2022. She comes from the Gond tribe and is well-known for contributing to this ancient art style. Gond art is a traditional tribal art style that evolved from the Gondi people of central India, particularly in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh regions. It is one of India's most vivid and unique tribal art traditions. Detailed and colourful portrayals of nature, legends, and daily life characterise Gond art.

Features of Gond Art

Gond art is renowned for its intricate patterns, dots, and lines that are used to create detailed and artistically pleasing compositions. These patterns are frequently used to fill in shapes and forms in artwork. Many Gond art pieces feature the region's flora and fauna, including animals, birds, trees, and other natural aspects. The Gond people have a strong connection to nature, which is reflected in their artwork.

Tribal mythology and folklore are frequently used in Gond art. The artwork may include mythical animals, gods, and goddesses from Gondi mythology. Gond art also is recognized for its use of vibrant colours. To generate these vibrant colours, artists generally employ natural pigments created from locally accessible materials like as leaves, flowers, and charcoal. The Gondi people use art to share their stories. Many pieces of art contain histories, customs, and cultural stories, making them an important component of their oral legacy. While Gond art has strong roots in history, many Gond artists have adapted it to modern styles. In addition to typical surfaces like walls and floors, they frequently paint on canvas or paper.

Durgabai's effort to keep this art relevant is unfathomable. In 1996, she started painting, and Jangarh Singh Shyam's work in particular served as her inspiration. She learned some skills through seeing him work in the past. Jangarh Singh Shyam was impressed by Durgabai's skills and pushed her to use them to illustrate fresh concepts and thoughts rather than repeating what they had done for years. Durgabai's stories are distinctive in their narrative prowess and revolve around trees, birds, animals, and human beings. Her exquisite paintings are one-of-a-kind specimens of Madhya Pradesh tribal art.

Her work has been displayed and acclaimed both in India and worldwide, adding to the rising popularity of Gond art as a distinct and expressive type of tribal art. Many Gond artists, such as Durga Bai Vyam, have successfully introduced their traditional art to a wide audience, helping maintain their cultural heritage while also earning a livelihood via their creative endeavours. Gond art has played an important role in conserving and promoting the Gond community's cultural history while garnering appeal in the larger community.

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