Can we 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 art cultures through a 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

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A supercontinent called Pangaea was divided into continental blocks about 300 million years ago. Accordingly, the southern half 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 (1) 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 indigenous people of Australia dating back to 60,000 years. The purpose of art was a way of communication for them. They did not possess a specific language, as a result, the community used artwork as a medium to pass down stories, moral teaching, use of land and cultural importance from generation to generation. Archaeologists have traced the findings of art with the usage of ochres on rock, walls and as body paint. 

The Significance of Motifs

Different tribes and cultures existed amongst the Aborigines. They practised their artwork using distinct techniques. The dot technique 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 remained the only focal point of Aboriginal art. They also used lines and symbols which were interpreted diversely by viewers. Similarly, there were layers and layers of meaning in a painting depicted through symbols like U- shape, lines linking circles or the spindle.

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 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, the artist who bought fame to this art form around the globe. The art form was a new means of livelihood for the community. Evidently, these paintings revolved around their principal deity Bada Dev. The artists were allowed to experiment with their patterns and each had a distinct meaning. The motifs depicted the lifestyle of the tribe, nature elements and festivities.

The Significance of Motifs

Although the art form traditionally began with the dots and lines motif, now with the wave of commercialisation the artists have the freedom to experiment with individual styles. The recognized Gond artists have to follow an individual and legally registered motif as a signature style of the painter. Likewise, according to the renowned Indian contemporary artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam when Gondi people are in trance they feel their body parts disperse and join those of spirits in space. This talented artist uses 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 represent history through their paintings but also share traits of culture. The 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