Learning Warli Art Digitally


Learning Warli Art from the Masters..!

Written by Nitin Pradhan May 27, 2020
COVID19 lock-downs have been particularly hard on people who are directly impacted economically and socially. While all of us have a responsibility to help them in the best ways we can and Catterfly did take some initiatives to help, we also decided to use it as a source of learning and launching Digital travel-based experiences. One of the key pillars of this initiative is to deliver local art and culture-based experiences digitally. In the past, we had school kids from a village in Uttar Pradesh (India) visiting Madhubani to learn the traditional art. But, the idea that it can be taught online by native award-winning artists was relatively new for Catterfly and the artists alike. Soon, we got all hands on the deck and I found it very interesting that our entire team was learning the art forms themselves as they launch it for everyone else.

For me personally, it was enriching in many ways – as each new initiative that we took was a tremendous source of learning. In particular, I got hooked on to Warli art - for it allows us to express ourselves using simple geometric shapes – and it’s a great way to de-stress as well. Mr. Sanjay Sangle (we call him Sanjay Bhau 😊) is a state award-winning artist in Warli Art and is a special teacher who takes a genuine interest in teaching the art in a very nuanced manner. Sanjay Bhau typically starts with teaching the basic technique (even simple aspects like how to properly draw straight lines, circles, triangles etc.) and then quickly takes us through a rapid ramp-up curve on how to combine simple elements to draw complex motifs and possible variants. Most importantly, he explains the context of the art and each motif. Of course, learning any art form is long journey but Sanjay Bhau’s method of teaching provides a very solid foundation and allows one to practice by working on their own themes and illustrations. I personally picked up the basics while moderating the learning sessions and during the course developed a basic Warli Painting. As you can see, it has tremendous scope for improvement but the idea that everything is proportionate stuck with me and that it follows the simple logic of how the life in its various aspect is represented. 

During the COVID lock-down, the young kid of our very dear family friend had to go for a sudden surgery and with restrictions in hospital even his parents were not allowed to be with him. One can only imagine the emotions of parents and young kids during such times, and we had a video chat while he was having the dinner alone in the hospital. Suddenly, I felt like illustrating the moment and even for a laymen practitioner like me - it was evident that art is not only a distraction from the humdrum of life but it could also be an adept way of expressing one's emotions. It was a small treat that it made the kid smile too..!

Then, the kid got back home after few days and it was certainly a cheerful moment. In Warli art mostly the community-based festival celebrations are depicted, but I tried to experiment with displaying small moments of personal happiness through a simple drawing titled - Home Coming (घर वापसी). Not sure, how it worked out - but I plan to send it to Sanjay Bhau and ask for his feedback, as he always helps out even after the classes are over. In the meanwhile, i was reminded of the story of the great Warli artist - Jivya Soma Mashe.

Jivya Mashe lost his mother at an early age of 7 and out of shock he stopped speaking for several years, communicating only by drawing pictures in the dust. Slowly this won him a special status within his community. Amazed by his artistic abilities, Indian government-supported him to preserve and protect Warli art that freed him from the constraints of working on rough walls and transformed the looks of the paintings into a free, deeply sensitive style.  Jivya Mashe heightened sensitivity and unusually powerful imagination was legacy of his early introspective period, and for the rest of us - perhaps art has the potential to express our deepest of emotions in a powerful manner. Now, I plan to continue practicing the art as we strive to help humble and great artist like Sanjay Sangle and expand their reach to much broader audience through Catterfly Art and Culture initiative...! 

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