Indian indigenous art has a long and chequered history. From the early cave paintings in Ajanta and Ellora to the present day wall murals in urban cities – tribal art has survived the ravages of time and emerged stronger. Today however the life of an indigenous artist is hardly a peaceful one. Faced with dwindling returns and a uninterested urban population, the traditional artists are slowly giving up their art.
So what is the life of a tribal artist like? What inspires a tribal artist to create works of intricate art? How does he balance his art with the requirements of day to day to existence? What does it take to keep creating traditional art forms in this age of gadgets and electronics? How does an indigenous artist take his art to a wide audience? Or is he even able to? These days, indigenous artists in India are a harried lot. The “whole sellers” of Indian art almost own the lives of these poor artists. Making bulk orders of thousands of pieces, the daily grind has reduced their art to the level of a factory produced white good. Sadly today’s tribal, folk and traditional artists are discouraging their own progeny from practicing the art.
Today the tribal artists begin their day in their small shanty accommodations on the outskirts of urban India. After taking care of their daily needs they head out their place of work – small warehouse type rooms in dilapidated buildings where other artists along with them produce “art”. There daily “orders” and the art is usually made piecemeal. Some parts are made by “specialists” – for example in wood carved item, the initial shaping is done by a particular artist or set of artists. Then another artist (or group of artists) processes the “art” further by bringing out the finer details. Finally a third artist (or group of artists) does the final polishing and packaging.
The inspiration has disappeared from most of their lives. They live in the nine to five framework of factory jobs, creating uninspiring pieces of “art”. However in spite of this effort, they can hardly make ends meet. Given paltry daily wages by these “whole sellers” the artists are losing their interest in the art. Eclipsed by the “whole sellers” these poor artists are not able to market whatever little inspiring art they are able to create. In fact to make ends meet, some of these artists have taken up secondary jobs as carpenters, electricians and other odd jobs.
The need today is to create a enriching and symbiotic relationship between the moderately well off contemporary artists and these poor indigenous painters and craftsmen.
Justin Sampsel is an avid art and handicraft enthusiast. He works with rural and indigenous artists from various parts of India. He likes creating customized art pieces for discerning buyers. Having worked with many artists across India, Justin Sampsel believes that it is important to create synergies between traditonal art forms and the contemporary artists. Art from his inclinations towards art, Justin Sampsel is also an experienced coder in Java, PHP and for the Android platform. His main interests are in the realm of machine learning and simulated neural networks. Justin Sampsel is a strong supporter of the open source software concept and works with the various open source groups