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Reviving Indigenous Art for Wildlife Conservation

indigenous art

In our quest to explore the profound connection between indigenous art, wildlife conservation, and the reawakening of nature’s wonders, we journey through the inspirational life of Sudarshan Shaw.

A young and enthusiastic artist, Shaw has channelled his affection for nature and folk stories to motivate a fresh wave of guardians for the forests.

Join us as we delve into his journey with art and the transformative impact of his art. His work serves as a testament to the enduring bond between culture and conservation. It stands as a beacon of hope for our planet’s fragile ecosystems.

A Fusion of Passion and Heritage

indigenous art
Some species from the Biodiversity Map of Andhra Pradesh (source: Sudershan Shaw)

Growing up amidst the cultural richness of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Sudarshan Shaw was immersed in the world of folk tales, mythological narratives, and traditional art forms like Patachitra and Kalighat paintings. The city’s intricately adorned temples served as a muse for his artistic endeavours. This cultural backdrop laid the foundation for his unique artistic vision.

Also Read: 

Exploring Uncommon Pattachitra Motifs and Themes

The Evolution of Kalighat Painting: History, Themes, Techniques

Shaw’s journey as an artist took flight when he graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Delhi in 2016. During his final year, he embarked on a project that would intertwine his love for art with his commitment to wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.

The Phad Painting Revelation

Inspired by the captivating jungle narratives of Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, Shaw delved into the rich tradition of Phad painting, a centuries-old scroll painting style renowned for narrating tales of regional deities. Here, he found the perfect canvas to weave his love for wildlife into indigenous art. 

Shaw’s artistic journey revealed that local folk art is more than mere aesthetics; it is a cherished language that resonates with communities. These art forms passed down through generations in various mediums like scrolls, embroideries, and household decorations, capture the essence of daily life, beliefs, practices, and the region’s abundant flora and fauna.

Also read: The Traditional Comic Artwork Of Rajasthan – Phad Painting

The Power of Indigenous Art

indigenous art
The motif of a tiger painted in 9 different art forms of India (source: Sudershan Shaw)

Indigenous art, as Dr Alka Pande, an art advisor and curator at the India Habitat Centre’s Visual Arts Gallery, explains, is a sincere mode of creative expression that develops without formal education or training. Many folk arts in India are deeply connected to nature, depicting plants and animals as primary motifs. These art forms serve as windows to the cultural and ecological heritage of their regions.

Shaw believes that art transcends mere awareness; it has the potential to revolutionise. His webinar, ‘On the Quest to see a Tiger,’ held at the Indian Institute of Science (IIS), exemplifies this notion. 

At IIS, students merge Indian folk art with science, using their artwork to illustrate complex scientific processes. Through these endeavours, they bridge the gap between art and science, transforming indigenous art into a tool for education and awareness.

Biodiversity Maps and Indigenous Art Fusion

Wildlife Map of Odisha (source: Sudershan Shaw)

Shaw’s artistic endeavours extended to creating biodiversity maps, drawing inspiration from the Pattachitra style. These maps showcased the natural wealth of different states, including Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. He collaborated with Bahar Dutt, an environmental journalist and professor at Shiv Nadar University, on a unique project. Together, they developed a biodiversity map for the university campus, serving as a reminder of the rich biodiversity coexisting with urban life.

Shaw’s artistic concepts are deeply rooted in research and cultural engagement. He explores local biodiversity, delves into legends, folklore, and visual traditions, and weaves them into his distinctive art style, Folkindica. This style pays homage to the pre-colonial Indian visual landscape and language, offering a fresh and authentic form of Indian art.

Conservation Through Indigenous Art

indigenous art
Biodiversity map of Andhra Pradesh drawing inspiration from Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari (source: Sudershan Shaw)

Sudarshan Shaw’s art has found its way into Indian households, state offices, and forest departments. His creations, approximately 16 biodiversity maps, not only captivate viewers with their aesthetics but also convey powerful messages about wildlife and conservation. These artworks symbolize a commitment to preserving indigenous art forms and the environment.

Some flora species from the Biodiversity Map of Andhra Pradesh inspired from the techniques and forms of Srikalahashti style of Kalamkari (source: Sudershan Shaw)

Shaw’s impact extends beyond his artwork. He was invited to lead a workshop titled “Jan Van-Chitran: Art of the forest, by the forest, for the forest” in the Sendhwa Forest Division of Madhya Pradesh. This initiative aims to rekindle the artistic spirit in young tribal communities, forging a new generation of folk artists and forest protectors. The workshop revealed that local art is not a distant skill but an informative tool, fostering a sense of connection with nature.

Sudarshan Shaw’s mission is to rekindle pride in India’s indigenous art and promote appreciation for folk art communities. His work blends tradition with contemporary themes like environmental awareness, biodiversity conservation, and climate change, making it accessible to a wider audience. However, he faces the challenge of receiving fair compensation for his efforts, highlighting the need to value and sustain indigenous art forms.

Wrapping it Up

In closing, Sudarshan Shaw’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of art, bridging the gap between culture, conservation, and creativity. Through his dedication, indigenous art finds new life, and a new generation embraces the role of forest protectors and cultural custodians.

Sudarshan Shaw’s art is a testament to the enduring connection between humanity and nature, preserved through the brushstrokes of indigenous art.

The conservation efforts undertaken by individuals like Sudarshan Shaw and initiatives of preserving folk art like the Rooftop App are united by a shared purpose — preserving our cultural and natural heritage. 

Just as Shaw’s art serves as a conduit for raising awareness about wildlife and environmental issues, the Rooftop App champions the conservation of indigenous art forms of India, safeguarding the rich cultural fabric that has been woven over centuries. Together, they exemplify the holistic approach required to protect both our artistic heritage and the biodiversity that thrives in harmony with it. This union of artistic expression and biodiversity conservation is a potent force for change in today’s world.

Download the Rooftop App from Google Play or the App Store to learn more about Indian art and its history! Discover us on Instagram @rooftop_app for all things traditional, folk and tribal Indian art.

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