Thursday, March 29, 2007
Painting and singing stories told through scrolls goes back to ancient times in India and Bengal.
Patuas or Chitrakars have plied their craft for generations in the villages of Mednipur district, near Calcutta.
Painting and singing stories on devotional and historical themes, the patuas would travel to surrounding villages, receiving rice, vegetables and a few coins for their recitals.
Competition from radio and television have eroded their traditional way of life.
Recently women began painting and singing. Adding scrolls based on social themes, such as public health and education, they are developing new avenues and markets for their craft.
I learnt about scroll painters when I met patua Dukhushyam Chitrakar in 1987. Over the years, I had helped him get commissions for scroll paintings from various quarters. His son Rahim's scroll, on rebuilding after the tsunami (of December 2004) is pictured above.
My friend Aditinath Sarkar, anthropologist and documentary film-maker, recently made a film Singing Pictures: Women Painters of Naya.
A clip is accessible below. Read more about the patuas here, and about the patua women of Naya here.