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Feministic Roots of Our Indian Traditional Art Forms

Art is a reflection of the society we live in. And, our traditional art forms are a fantastic example of the same. Be it Kalighat paintings, Gond, Phad scrolls, or Mughal miniatures, these artworks exhibit traditional themes and reflect our contemporary world. They incorporate modern symbolism and ideology, without compromising the heritage they stand for. But, living in current times makes one question the inclusivity of these traditional legacies.

(Image source: Saffronart, Bhuri Bai

Questioning the same, many of these art forms are practised and commercialised by men. Although, these art forms have their roots sown by women traditionally.

The Feministic Roots

Let’s take the example of art forms such as Madhubani, Bhil, Tikuli, Mandana, Chittara, and Sohrai. These art forms were initiated by women. Earlier, this served as a means of self-expression, which has since then continually become a momentous piece of their identity. Both, culturally and individually. 

Madhubani paintings are a transgenerational practice. The tradition of making a Madhubani painting is thriving due to the mothers passing this skill set onto their daughters. Or, a mother figure practising the generational exchange with a girl child. This transfer of heritage, culture, and womanhood is a right of passage which is accessible only by the women from their respective communities. This exchange provides the artists with a voice, financial stability, and social standing. This enables them to express and share their artworks not only on Indian soil but also on international grounds as well. 

Image source: Saffronart, Lakshmi Gademane

Concluding The Conversation

Artists such as Bhuri Bai, Lado Bai, Baua Devi, Lakshmi Gademane, Arti Devi, and Sumitra Devi to name a few have transformed their respective art practices and have helped put these art forms on the world’s art map. 

Even if we might not have pegged some of our traditional, folk, and indigenous art forms to be feministic, these art forms stand as proof that even though our vocabulary for the same developed late but we have always made the effort to be inclusive and open to new ideals. 

Image source: Saffronart, Baua Devi

Although this perspective may seem different from the content we usually put out, we believe in having a critical eye and a questioning mind. It is the crux of being more inclusive and inviting. 

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