Can you imagine that 180 million years ago India and Australia shared the same landmass? And later also shared a common thread in art as well. Read on to know how Gond tribal art and Aboriginal art are similar to each other.

These two art forms are an amalgamation of two cultural identities, which follow through a similar geographical and historical trail. They originate from the same continent called Gondwana. As shared by a renowned contemporary Indian artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, the aborigines and Gonds carry a similar trait of narrating stories through art. Moreover, they exhibit a similar pattern of lines and dots.

Here we explore the two rich art forms and understand the large landmass, Gondwana.

Origin & Formulation of Gondwana

Image source: researchgate.net

A supercontinent called Pangaea engulfed all the present continents, before it got divided into multiple continental blocks about 300 million years ago. The southern half of this supercontinent was called Gondwanaland. This piece of the landmass was further divided into the eastern half comprising India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Antarctica, and Australia.

However, the western half comprised Africa and South America. Literally meaning the “land of Gonds”, the name Gondwana was first suggested by Medlicott in 1872. Austrian scientist Eduard Suess coined the name for this landmass. Divided on the grounds of rocks, flora and fauna, this supercontinent birthed two art forms.

Aboriginal Art

The Significance of Aboriginal Art

The Australian aborigines are an indigenous tribe that have residing in Australia since 60,000 years. For them art was a way to communicate stories, folklore, and their daily life. They did not possess a specific language, which as a result lead the community to use their artworks to pass down stories, their philosophy, and the importance of their culture from generation to generation. Archaeologists have traced the creation of art as they discovered traces of the usage of ochre on rocks, cave walls and as body paint. 

The Significance of Motifs

Different tribes and cultures existed amongst the Aborigines. They created their artworks using a distinct technique of dotting. This began as a way to hide their knowledge from the non-indigenous crowd. In those days art was considered sacred and artists needed permission to paint a story. Though a well-known style now, the dot never served as the only focal point of Aboriginal art. They also used lines and symbols which were interpreted diversely by viewers. These were complex paintings which were simply illustrated via symbols and shapes.

Gond Tribal Art

The Significance of Gond Art

The art form originated in the heart of India, Madhya Pradesh. This folk art receives its name from the largest tribal community in India called Gond. Initially, the Gondi women practised the painting technique on mud walls with organic paints to decorate their houses. As a matter of fact, they strongly believed that these paintings brought good vibes and helped in eliminating evil powers. Jangarh Singh Shyam adapted with time and bought fame to this art form around the globe. The art form was a new means of livelihood for the community. One of the central themes of these paintings revolved around their principal deity Bada Dev. The artists were allowed to experiment with their patterns and each of them had a distinct meaning. The motifs depicted their lifestyle, natural elements, and festivities.

The Significance of Motifs

Gond artists have always created their own unique style and rhythm through a pattern of dots and lines. Through experimenting with traditional and contemporary styles, each of the artists have deveoped their own independent style. The recognized Gond artists have to follow an individual and legally registered motif as a signature style of the painter. Fascinatingly, according to the renowned Indian contemporary artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam when Gondi people are in trance they feel their body parts disperse and become one with the sentient spirits. Venkat Raman Singh Shyam makes use of semicircles with dots in his painting. As always seen, the dot illustrates the clan deity Bada dev and semicircles as the community.

The Similarities in Gond Art & Aboriginal Art

These two art forms not only represent their community’s history through their paintings but also share traits of their culture. These two art forms illustrate their theories of human existence, reverence towards community, and creation of the world. Usage of vibrant colours and a selective palette is common between the two art forms. And as artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam shares, “Gond is very similar to Aboriginal art. Not only the patterns of dots and dash, their rituals, performances, dance but even their drinks are like ours”.

Theories of creation are a common aspect of both communities. Needless to say, these art forms are a vital part of the rich heritage of their community.

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Citation: Indigenius Artists India, Sunita Nair