Tribal Arts Tour of India - Kathakali, Gond

Tribal Arts Tour of India - Kathakali, Gond

Hi Everyone! Are you ready to travel with me? So this time we will be looking at folk arts which share few commonalities with folk arts of other countries. Does it sound interesting? So tighten your seat belts and lets fly to Kerala..

State - Kerala
Folk art- Kathakali 
Similar to Kabuki / Noh of Japan & Peking Opera from China
Kathakali is an Indian classical dance form that presents folk stories, religious legends or spiritual themes from Hindu scriptures. Kathakali is distinguished by elaborate and colourful make up, masks and costumes. Earlier it was mainly performed by male artists but now women also participate. 
Kathakali dance form includes 24 main mudras, and numerous more minor ones. There are nine facial expressions called Navarasas (Sringara - love, Hasya - comic, Karuna - sad, Raudra - anger Vira - heroic, Bhayanaka - fear, Bibhatsa - disgust, Adbhuta - marvel and Shanta - peace) which each actor masters through facial muscle control during his education, to depict the emotional state of the character in the play.



Image credit: About Kabuki/ Shibaraku (C) Shochiku

Now comes the interesting part - The Japanese performance arts Kabuki/Noh and Chinese performance art Peking Opera are similar in many ways to Kathakali. Eg - Kabuki and Kathakali are similar in stylized gestures, symbolic yet minimal dance moves, plenty of eye and facial expressions, dazzling costumes, elegantly designed wigs and elaborate make-up for male artistes. Same is the case with Chinese Peking Opera.

State - Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Folk art -Gond Art
Material used - natural colours derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung
Similar to Australian Aboriginal art

The word “Gond” comes from the Dravidian expression kond, meaning “the green mountain.”   Art comes with the belief that a good image brings good luck. The Gonds paint their walls with vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna, gods,  various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. These paintings invariably tell stories about the unique way of life of the tribals. 
The art showcases predominant use of dots and lines. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images. 


A Gond painting by Artist Santosh Maravi

Australian Aboriginal painting — Yarla Jukurrpa (Bush Potato Dreaming) — Cockatoo Creek, Image credit: Kate Owen Gallery

Australian Aboriginal painting — Yarla Jukurrpa (Bush Potato Dreaming) — Cockatoo Creek, Image credit: Kate Owen Gallery

The interesting story is about what could be the possible reasons behind similarities between Gond art and Australian aboriginal art form. Apparently it lies in the shared history and geography between the art forms. According to Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, an important contemporary artist, the similarity in themes and representation comes from the very fact that Aborigines have their own stories about creation just like Gonds, and they too present it through dashes and dots. He also traces geographical confluence between the two communities and is of the opinion that Gond is very similar to Aboriginal art for the simple reason that the Aboriginal art and Gond art have their geographic connection as well. Both are originally from the same continent of Gondwana. He says of the time, “...when there were just two continents, Gondwana and Laurasia. India and Australia came from Gondwana and America came from Laurasia.” 

For those of you who have been following us for a while know that we are big fans of Gond. You can read more about Gond:

Start your own Gond art collection with pieces here

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