Saturday, May 26, 2018

From cow dung to the red carpet - a tribute!

By Shriram Khadilkar
Photography: Courtesy Jivya-Soma-Mashe and Chand-Mashe blogs
Read Time: 2 mins
"jivya soma mashe snake painting indiaartndesign"
Jivya Soma Mashe at work

Tribal Warli artist, Jivya Soma Mashe passed on, on May 16, 2018 leaving behind him a legacy conferred with Intellectual Property Rights; perhaps the only tribal art form with an IPR…

This tribal from the Dahanu village in Maharashtra, who started painting at the tender age of seven, was blessed with the extraordinary ability of painting images from nature with a free expression. Learning the art by observation, as with most tribal artists, Jivya Soma pioneered a few practices that have transformed the way this tribal art is perceived today. 

"jivya soma mashe warli painting indiaartndesign"
Image on left: Jivya Soma Mashe (detail) photo Hervé Perdriolle;                                                              Image on right: Tarpa Dance ©engrave.in 
"jivya soma mashe warli artist indiaartndesign"
Image on left ©Alchetron 

While Warli painting was done only by women to commemorate a celebration, Jivya Soma was the first man to take to this art and would paint in their traditional manner on a casual basis, without any purpose or celebration. While traditional Warli paintings generally graced the ecofriendly mud walls of hutments painted with lair (mixture of soil with cow dung) and rice paste using a stick, or a brush made from rice crop; Jivya Soma changed the surface and began painting on canvas or dark brown paper using a white outline. 

"jivya soma mashe warli artist detail indiaartndesign"
Jivya Soma Mashe (detail) photo Hervé Perdriolle

"jivya soma mashe warli art indiaartndesign"

A man of few words, Jivya Soma was endowed with a good command on his drawing with a marked sense of space division, balance in composition, and was adept at creating an impression. Bold forms with pure earthiness were his specialty. One of his paintings depicts a horizontal line dividing the canvas into two halves. A serpentine shape decorates Mother Earth in a very beautiful manner in the lower half and creates an instant element of intrigue for the viewer. 

"jivya soma mashe workers in the field indiaartndesign"
Image ©Alchetron 

The use of line, dot and sometimes mass in his painting saw the emergence of various types of trees; sun and moon; animals like the snake; and birds like peacock, parrot, and sparrow; men and women in dancing poses, man playing Tarpa (the instrument played by his tribe) and many more.  

"jivya soma mashe at work indiaartndesign"
Jivya Soma Mashe at work

It was his excellent memory, powerful expression, clarity of thought, forceful and confident line that were the tools of his candid expression. His paintings were a mirror of not just tribal, but ancestral culture in the real sense – qualities that gave him an unprecedented recognition at Pompidou Centre in France, USA and Japan, and of course in India. He showed the grace and force of quality rural work to the entire world and proved that simplified shapes and images could attract the cosmopolitan layman of today’s modern era.  Jivya Soma Mashe was the first and the only Warli painter, who was decorated with Padma Shree by the Government of India.

"jivya soma mashe paris exhibition indiaartndesign"
Nek Chand, sculptures, Jivya Soma Mashe paintings, Halle Saint Pierre, Paris 2007 
"jivya soma mashe paintings at paris exhibition indiaartndesign"
Exhibition "Nek Chand - Jivya Soma Mashe" Halle Saint-Pierre Paris 2007 photo Hervé Perdriolle
"jivya soma mashe chand shiva indiaartndesign"
Exhibition "Nek Chand - Jivya Soma Mashe" Halle Saint-Pierre Paris 2007 photo Hervé Perdriolle

About 45 years ago, people were not aware of this art style. Today, we see a plethora of Warli motifs anointing fabrics and on fashion show ramps; decorating walls, greeting cards, and beautifying stationery material. People are fascinated with the simple forms and drawings. It has become a very simple art form for anybody to practice – one of the strongest plus-points for its widespread popularity. 

"warli painting by jivya soma mashe indiaartndesign"
"jivya soma mashe and son sadashiv indiaartndesign"
Sadashiv and Jivya Soma Mashe photo Hervé Perdriolle 2003

But no longer. Very recently Warli art has been registered under the Intellectual Property Rights Act; perhaps, the only tribal art to have achieved this cult status. And it can be owed to Jivya Soma Mashe, who in his purity and naivete brought these rural motifs into the five-star culture of the metropolis. Today, his sons - Sadashiv and Balu continue to keep the legacy alive.

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