Warli Paintings | Tribal Art from India
The Warli tribes produce wonderful folk art to decorate the walls on the buildings in their village. The Warli live mostly in the forested uplands of Maharashtra in central India, inland from Mumbai, they don’t have a written history but they represent all that is important their culture, their way of life, their beliefs, in these magnificent paintings.
Several years ago some Warli artists started to paint on cloth, they used the same techniques: the walls or cloth is painted with a brownish coloured paste made from mud and cow dung. The most usual colour is a reddish brown or dark umber but sometimes a black background is created. The paintings above have ebb reversed in that a brown paint has been used on a washed concrete wall in the Craft Museum in Delhi.
Traditionally the white paint is made from rice and milk but nowadays acrylic paint is sometimes used. A simple small wooden stick, with the end chewed to help absorb the paint, is used as a brush. The designs are deceptively simple but are full of energy and humour. The human body is represented by two triangles, wide at the shoulders and hips, articulated and narrow at the waist. Arms and legs are drawn as simple sticks, the whole effect is of movement and rhythm and a line of touching bodies, lined up for a dance, creates a fascinating geometric pattern.
Lines of dancers are a common theme in Warli paintings, the Warli celebrate their many festivals with music, devotional acts and dancing in long lines that swirl around the village. The paintings illustrate all village life, birth, farming, looking after animals, making bamboo baskets and domestic life and playing.
Two things stand out in their paintings: insects, people, animals are all the same size, there is no perspective or scale, the implication is that all life has the same importance. In fact this is a common theme in Indian folk art – harmony with nature is taken for granted. Secondly: all their paintings are created as if you were looking down from above the village, they are a plan view of the village.
We have small Warli paintings from £35. There is a magnificent exhibition of larger Warli Paintings at the Harley Gallery at Welbeck Abbey near Worksop. I can’t recommend this highly enough! It is on until 11 June 2017.
First Rain is the title of a beautiful video by Johnny Magee of a Warli village which includes interviews with painters and superb aerial views of the village during preparations for a festival. The film, presumably shot from a drone above the village, makes complete sense of the paintings and is utterly delightful.
Another film by Johnny Magee of life in a Warli village, simply called Warli, can be viewed here.