Monday, September 5, 2011

Not your everyday "John Hancock"

Signature: patterns in Gond art edited by Gita Wolf, Bhajju Shyam and Jonathan Yamakami (759.9548 Si 2010) is a celebration of the artistic tradition and creative ability of tribal artists from central India. This book offers a unique perspective of Gond art as it explains that each artist designs an individual pattern that becomes their ‘signature’. Artists can be identified by these designs.

Each two page spread features an artist and one of their paintings. A segment from the painting has been blown up to showcase the pattern the artist uses to decorate the images in the painting. Animals, gods, people and trees are represented in these pages and every singe image is filled in with detailed patterning of their ‘signature’ design. The patterns include crosses, single lines or dots, diamond shapes filled with lines, basket-weave, half-circles, spirals and many more. The colours combined with the patterns create vibrant images.

Each artist explains the inspiration for their particular design. I’ve included a few of these descriptions which I often find very poetic.
Mohan Shyam says, “Here are ears of corn. I’ve drawn them simply one behind the other, in rows.”

Nankusiya Shyam says, “This is the pattern created by a marriage procession, as it weaves through the village.”

Narmada Prasad Thekam says, “I’ve followed lines, the lines from the past to the present, tracing memory.”

Rajkumar Shyam says, “You’ll see my design inside a lemon. Just cut it across in half, and you’ll find the seeds and the pattern I’ve used.”

Subhash Vyam says, “These are seeds, scattered on the feathers of a peacock.”

In terms of classroom use, the most obvious connection is art. I think it could also be used in a social studies classroom when talking teaching about identity and the interconnectedness between tradition, the individual and the present. Further to this is the concept of community and how the Gond have developed and maintained their art form. Pair this with another Tara book, Tsunami as a way to illustrate how traditional art forms are being kept relevant in today’s world.

To see what Gond art looks like check out the YouTube video below.


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