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Common themes in Gond art

Introduction to Gond art

What is Gond art? It is a form of tribal art practised in Madhya Pradesh by one of the largest tribal communities in India. Their paintings are very easily noticeable, they are characterised by colourful dots and bold geometric lines. Gond artists love to incorporate vibrant colours such as yellow, orange, red, blue and green. In the past, it marked important ceremonies and events such as weddings and religious festivals. The entire community would come together to decorate their homes and the village. 

Initially, these depictions served as an ode to mother Earth as a form of gratitude to nature for being gentle. Gond art has seen a shift in its medium of painting from walls and floors of a house to canvas and paper. Jangarh Singh Shyam is a renowned Gond artist, who began his journey at the tender age of 17. 

To know more about where Gond art originated, click here 

Certain themes are featured regularly in Gond art, which may serve as a noticeable factor in its recognition.

Nature and Gond art

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Since Gond is a traditional tribal folk art form, it features elements of nature most often as motifs. Artists use trees, birds, animals and soil as tools for storytelling. These motifs are usually the star of the painting with all other elements only complementing them in the background. 

For instance, the Mahua tree is an important aspect of the Gond tribal community, as people of the group worship it as their ‘Tree of Life’. The Gonds also practise “godna” tattoo art, involving the sun, moon and other tattoo designs. It is believed that this life is passed on to the next generation having this tattoo. 

This highlights a sense of respect and dignity towards nature and what it offers. It helps to strengthen the innate harmonious relationship between man and nature, in the hopes of maintaining this bond in the future. It emphasises the connection between nature and the people of the Gond tribal community. 

Gond art depicting mythology

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Another very prominent motif featured in Gond art is mythology. Gods, goddesses and deities are used as motifs in recreating a story of the past. Great figures such as Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva are central features of most paintings. 

These paintings aid in oral narration of Indian history, rendering a new edition of a mythological tale. Gond art showing mythology and folklore in a fresh light enables the younger generation to stay connected and aware of India’s rich cultural and religious history. The story can then be passed down generations through the painting. 

Ceremonies and social gatherings

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Not everyday does one get to witness or know about tribal communities. Gond art portrays the richness of tribal ceremonies and social gatherings. It accurately captures the festive spirit of their gatherings and demonstrates closeness. 

Through Gond paintings, we get to witness their cultural practices, dances, events and festivals that make up the fabric of the Gond community. The Saila dance is performed with sticks to strengthen the community’s bond with nature. The traditional karma dance brings different families together to celebrate festivals within the community. 

Gond art demonstrates everyday scenes and activities such as farming, gathering, hunting and general village life. These artists strive to replicate this simplicity in tribal living as opposed to hectic city life. It celebrates the beauty of living and cooperation between members of smaller communities. 

Social issues 

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In recent years, many Gond artists have begun incorporating newer, more relevant themes into their traditional artwork. They use their platform to address issues such as women empowerment, societal challenges and environmental conservation. 

Traditionally, the Gond tribal community has deep roots of patriarchy. Political and society issues could only be discussed by the men in the group. Hence, Gond art gave the women a sense of empowerment and freedom to experiment with art. Earning a livelihood as a part of the community made them feel equal to the position of male counterparts.  

To know more about social issues affiliated with Gond art, click here

To sum it up… 

Gond art has several characteristics by which it can be noticed. The most important of them all is the selection of themes in each painting. 

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By Freya Bulsara 

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