Artist Interview - Santosh Maravi
Santosh Maravi is an emerging Gond artist, who apprenticed under Mayank Jangarh Shyam. Santosh creates imagery with powerful stories behind them.
Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 36 years old and from a village called Gaarkarmatta, district Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, India. I have a 5 yr old daughter & an 11 yr old son. They compete between each other on who makes the better painting.
I only like to paint. I can’t do anything else other than that. I enjoy this a lot.
How did you get into Gond?
I was a guest at my uncle & aunt in Bhopal who are painters. My aunt is Durga bai – a prolific Gond artist who is internationally renowned. I am also related to the most famous Gond painters – Jangarh Shyam. His wife is my mum’s sister and I lived with them. Seeing him at work as well as travelling with my aunt & uncle within India inspired me to take up painting.
Tell us a bit about your technique
Gond painting was done on walls in a house. Homes were made of mud at the time, which would be the surface to paint on. Sometimes, people would apply special mud like black, white or Geru to paint on. People still do such painting. In the early days, they would use “baas ka kucha” (a brush made of bamboo) and paints derived from materials at home. The scrub would be dipped in paints and then a motif made on the wall. This would give the painting its unique texture. Gond artists have now graduated to brushes, paints, and canvas.
What do you draw inspiration from for your paintings?
My themes are based on the environment and how it is changing. Not all artists have a theme or the same theme. They paint what they see. Santosh shared some incredibly poignant thoughts behind some of his paintings.
Bird & fish: It is one of my first works. There is a fish in the water. The bird comes everyday to drink water or eat the fish. The fish thinks that the bird can come to me, but I cannot leave. I cannot see where they go every day. The birds are crying because they need to come to the fish and sometimes eat them, but they cannot eat all the fish, else the bird will not be able to survive later on. As human beings, we simply do not think this way.
Tiger and the forest: We are told that there was a forest here, a bear lived there and a tiger lived there and now it doesn’t exist. The painting is from a tiger’s perspective that what if the tiger could take everything such as the forest and other animals with him because he misses his home so much. He is looking back to see what he had before and he is trying to move forward.
Herd of Elephants: Elephants are happy in their own world, but because of us humans, they have to keep moving from place to place. They feel harassed and they think, what if we could simply carry the forest with us so that we can be away from humans and happy.
Conversation: The painting is a conversation between trees. A long time ago there was the only forest everywhere. Trees, man, birds – all of them lived together. Now wherever you look, there is man. This painting was a commission. I got a good response to this painting. People valued my thought and that made me very happy.
What is your signature motif?
Each artist has their own signature motif. When I started, I was starting to look for my signature motif. I saw a pair of sandals and found a design on it, which was my inspiration. I worked different angles of the motif and till today, that is my signature.
Do you think Gond should be exposed further to the world?
There are about 250-300 Gond artists. They are getting exposure and people are inspired by the ones who are famous. Bhajju Shyam got a Padmashri (4th highest civilian award in India) in 2018. We get contacted by many researchers & students. There is also a movie being made on Jangarh Shyam. This kind of exposure is good for us artists & the art form.
What does Gond mean to you
For me, it is my life. I get to travel, teach children. I never thought this would be possible even in my dreams. I have exhibited in various exhibitions across India. When people appreciate your art and the thought behind it, it is a very good feeling. I do think that we as Gond artists could use some help in bringing this art form to the world and showcase it to more people.