Storytelling traditions have been an integral part of different generations in India, with each region having it’s own unique style of narration. One such tradition is practiced in the region of Telangana, where Cheriyal artists depict stories on their canvases. Used as visual aids to keep different stories alive, the paintings are categorised with earthy colours made from natural stones, fine detailing done with brushes and a texture which comes from the khadi cloth used as a canvas.
If you are thinking that this is yet another tradition depicting gods and goddesses, then the art has much more to offer. The stories depict farmers, fishermen, weavers, boys and girls, women working in rice fields as their main characters with animals, birds, trees, musical instruments and things we come across in our daily lives. The interesting part about these scrolls is that they are done in vertical format with story illustrations in horizontal format, just like a comic strip.
The preparation of the canvas is a longer process. The khadi cotton cloth is treated three times with a mixture of rice starch, shuddh matti (white mud), a paste of boiled tamarind seeds and gum water.
The colours used in the art are organic and made from natural substances. Colours such as red, blue and green comes from natural stones; black from lamp soot mixed with tree gum; white from crushed, ground sea shells; lemon yellow from turmeric; a particular yellowish stone, red from tamarind seeds and brown from geru.
Once the cloth and colours are ready, the artists sketch the outline directly on to the canvas using a brush. After the sketch is ready, the artists fill the background with red. The next step is to painting human figures and motifs are painted with primary colours. Finally the outlining of figures and borders is done with black colour to add the final touches to a painting.
Now, that you are aware of how a Cheriyal painting is made, are you excited to try your hand in making one?
It’s a sunny afternoon in a village. Three women dressed in printed cotton saris are crushing wheat with big bright bamboo sticks. Their saris are vibrant, embroidered in red, mustard and green. They look happy at work, striking conversations under the shade of a big banyan tree. Birds and hens eat the grain off the earth while two hay-thatched huts stand at the corner. The pale green backdrop brings this scene to life. The swirling frame of yellow and red dots gives it all the more an exhilarating effect. But something is about to happen. Something dramatic, maybe? Who knows! One must wait for the next scroll to unfold.
It is believed that the Cheriyal Scroll Paintings were brought to India by the Mughals in the 16th century however some say, that it is mostly the invention of the locals since they differ from the other forms of scroll painting found in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Cheriyal Paintings bear a heavy influence of temple art traditions. Performing arts of dance and music were soon added to this style of painting by the Kaki Padagollu community- a clan of story tellers that use these paintings as visual aids while they narrate their stories. Today, the present generation of the Nakash Clan continues this legacy in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
You can apply to be an Educator and learn this art. Know more here.
9 year old, Kajal can draw perfect circles now with which she embellishes the borders of her Patua scrolls. Kajal has been a part of The Storytellers Collective for past eight months and has been taking classes at Vidya and Child centre in Noida. She eagerly awaits for her class every week. Kajal is one of the hundred kids, studying at eight different centres in Delhi under this programme.
Harman, a Youth Educator, takes classes at Tarang Kala Kendra Centre talks about how the training has helped her in the classroom. “This programme helps in bringing art and storytelling to classrooms and it is amazing to see how students use different elements of Patua with their experiences and create narratives,” she adds.
Our journey till now has been very exciting given the sheer enthusiasm of everyone involved and the different experiences they bring. All our Educators are pursuing different things in life – but Patua Art and stories bring them together. It is perhaps too early to hope that our traditional arts will someday become great learning aids, but we can already see the impact it has on those learning, and the ones teaching. More than anything, to nurture young practitioners of an age-old art form has been a challenge worth pursuing.
Kajal along with other kids hope to see their stories published in a book. Please help us publish and distribute these resources amidst Kajal and her friends/peers.
To contribute to our campaign, log onto http://bitgi.co/storyteller.
Over a period of 7 months, our Educators have worked with 100+ students around Delhi to engage them with an age old storytelling form of Patua and have helped them develop visual narratives. All our students are now eagerly waiting for the day when they can present their work in front of you.
With just a month to go for our final showcase, here’s a sneak peek into what we’ve been up to at The Storytellers Collective this year!
Savitribai Phule is an important figure in history, and very special to all of us at The Storytellers Collective. It is not only her story that inspires, but the beautiful narration by the team at Azim Premji University, and Suman Chitrakar (also our Master Trainer for the program) that brings out her story in today’s time, in a format we all love.
After the making of the book, and while pondering over how we can make India’s narrative arts a learning-tradition, it is Savitribai’s graphic-novel avatar that reached out to us, encouraging us to create a program for young aspiring teachers and children who could learn – without any barriers to economic conditions, caste or creed.
We hope this story, and the art can make place in your heart, just as it did in ours.
Download the book here: Savitribai Phule : The Journey of a Trailblazer
Working with children, for me, is not only about setting forth knowledge or yielding some kind of skill amongst the learners. I strongly believe in the act of expression and therefore, I prefer to call it a teaching-learning process. At Vidya and Child, a group of 12 ten-year olds make this possible, every Sunday, as they eagerly wait, with a decorated black-board, for their ‘Patua-class’.
The small cosy classroom has its exteriors in a slum area in NOIDA. The children have hand-painted the room, its colours in stark contrast against the greys, browns, and blacks outside. The learners, neatly dressed, their art-files opened at a new page, and their eyes brimming with the urge to share something from the week that was- It feels privileged to be the recipient of their knowledge. Their inherent purity and creativity is the educator’s reward.
In each session, while we aim to cover set of objectives, we also take part in becoming increasingly aware of our own selves, our environment and those around us. We are ‘Storytellers’ and we learn each time, that our stories intersect at various levels. It is in developing a methodology, to find these points of intersection, that I always look forward to.
as told by Ananya Sikka
Youth Educator at Vidya & Child, Noida