Warli is a unique form of Indian folk art. It is characterised by neither the rich, solid colours nor the strong, lifelike lines of, say, the paintings of Mithila or the pattachitra of Orissa. Warli is known for its rudimentary execution: effortless, unassuming curves; colours, optional. While it has the same origins as every other folk art form - in the minds and hands of simple, tribal women seeking to decorate their mud dwellings - Warli in particular has evolved along the trajectory of the outer, worldly life, as opposed to the inner, devotional life.
The painting that you see on this page is an authentic Warli painting of superb quality. It is executed on a stretch of fine, homegrown silk. At the very centre is the life-giving tree, a recurring motif in the visual arts of numerous cultures all over the world. Its fine-leaved canopy resembles the shape and venation of a large leaf. Dotting its silhouette on either side are long queues of a quadruped with flourishing tails. On either side of the canopy is a temple-esque structure, an integral part of social life. Towards either edge of the painting are house-shaped panels.
The spaces between and within these panels are filled with the signature line-drawn figures of Warli art. Overall they are not perfectly symmetrical, but represent the many aspects of tribal social life. Amongst the elephants and the dancing figures and the women fetching water and the wedding processions, it is easy to get lost in the uncomplicated, tribal joys of life.
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