Rural Women Artists: A Visual Analysis of the Mural Art Forms of Santhal Pargana, Jharkhand, India

By Rani, Pallavi; Kumar, D. Udaya et al. | Journal of International Women's Studies, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Rural Women Artists: A Visual Analysis of the Mural Art Forms of Santhal Pargana, Jharkhand, India


Rani, Pallavi, Kumar, D. Udaya, Tudu, Saheb Ram, Bora, Shilpi, Journal of International Women's Studies


Introduction

The relationship among women, art, and society is a valuable framework for examining the changing social circumstances of Indian women artists. The cultural legacy of women artists and their visual art practices are now being accepted as an intellectual contribution in the world of art. Exposure on global platforms are motivating rural women to lead women artists from similar socio-economic backgrounds in the field of art practices.

Indian art history has documented the artistic skills of rural women as house decorators. The tradition of house decoration is still prevalent in rural India in the form of painted walls, floors, and other handicrafts. Each decorated house reveals the cultural aspects of its own community, place and technique. Gond, Warli, Saura and Pithora mural paintings are known for their community art practices and Madhubani, Sanjhi, Mandana and Lippan mural arts are known for their place and technique.

The cultural diversity of rural Jharkhand makes an interesting study in the fields of Cultural Studies and Women's Studies. The six districts of Jharkhand Deoghar, Dumka, Godda, Pakur, Jamtara, and Shahibganj, comprise the administrative division of Santhal Pargana. The mixed population of this area works on a single mural layout and technique annually. Generally, the local festivals, marriage ceremonies, and other occasions are celebrated in the villages with annual house repairing processes and the decorations. Nature is the main inspiration behind mural art. Rituals, myths, male-dominated art work (wood carving and pottery-making), and influences from other house decorations help these women artists to create lively paintings.

This paper examines the painted mud houses of each district by the women artist for their approach, purpose, technique, layout, and design elements. This paper also discusses the lacuna of studies of the visual characteristics of the rural mural art of Jharkhand, which have not yet been documented. The aim of this paper is to study the artistic expressions (art forms) of rural women and the visual elements of rural mural art. The study focuses the social conditions, cultural significance and their reflections in the rural mural art of Jharkhand.

Research Design and Procedure

We pursued an ethnographic research method. Initially, a pilot study was carried out in six districts of Santhal Pargana. Afterwards, we conducted intensive research in certain areas (selected blocks indicated in fig. 1). More than two blocks were selected and three villages of each block were visited for the research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants, which clarified existing questions regarding their art forms. We then sorted and analysed the art forms by symmetric operation (3). The raw data was broken down into units of practical meaning that led to a clearer understanding of the motives behind the said practice. Field notes were thoroughly studied along with collected narratives.

Data Sources and Methodology

Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources. The primary data were collected from field visits, semi-structured interviews, photography, and video recordings. The secondary data were collected from libraries and the Internet. We interviewed the participants who included 24 women artists ranging from 10-50 years. Most were housewives, along with a few young female students from a mid-socio-economic background. Four participants from each districts of Santhal Pargana were selected. Among them, ten women belonged to the Santhal community. Most of the research data was gathered on site (from village houses, schools, museums, and NGOs) through observation, photography, interviews, and audio and video recording.

Discussion

Rural women artists and their artwork

The tradition of creating murals in the Santhal Pargana was started by women artists from the Adivasi communities such as Santhal, Oraon, Sauria Paharia, Munda, and Ghatwar. …

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