The list of books on Gond Art that we have curated for you, captures the voice of the artists themselves. We cannot separate the artists from their social connectivity and subjectivity within their community. These books acknowledge the importance of art in the life of an artist who is rooted in community and tradition. All four books on Gond Art document the life of the Gond community, their beliefs and myths of the forest that marked their relationship with nature.
Origins of Art: The Gond Village of Patangarh
The origins of Gond’s Art are quite debatable in the artwork. While its patterns and motifs have a long history of a thousand years, Gond Art, as we see it today, is just 35 years old. Practised among the Gond tribe of Central India, the art form has now risen to international acclaim. The way the book traces the origins of Gond Art is the result of creative imagination. Though many members have migrated into big cities, their art continues to reflect upon their relationship with their village and the forest. How do we understand this relationship with its complexity and utmost subtlety? And how can a simple craft, culture, and daily normal life of a community give rise to such sophisticated art?
Famous Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, along with a famous Japanese Photographer Kodai Matsuoka went for a long visit to Patangarh. They explored the connection between the art form and the community from where it originated. The book is an interplay of both visual and verbal dialogue between an expert insider and a curious visitor. It is one of the rare books on Gond Art that incorporates artworks made by members of the Gond community.
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Where has the Tiger Gone?
The book is a collection of tales of the Tiger from the Gond community. Dhavat Singh Uikey, a renowned Gond artist, makes us dive into the forgotten world of the tiger. In this world, tiger was revered as well as feared. The artist-cum-author retells the traditional stories of the Gond tribe with richly illustrated Gond Art. The front cover has vertical cuts, which symbolise the present relationship of the community with the tiger.
The artist captures not only the relationship between the Gond community and wildlife, but also how it is changing with time, as if alerting us to wake up and become aware of the dreary reality of vanishing wildlife, and zoos become our only connection with it. The artist uses Gond motifs and patterns to raise his concerns and to compile a book of Gond Art along with the written text.
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Finding My Way
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam‘s autobiography is a captivating narrative. It transports us into the heart of Gond culture, a world teeming with myths, memories, and breathtaking artistry. He talks about the charm of his rural childhood. Then it follows his life amidst the bustling streets of Delhi as a rickshaw puller. The book allows us to navigate along with the artist into his odyssey of twists and turns of his life as he worked hard to hone his craft.
The story is unfiltered and does not deter from addressing class and societal norms. The changing voice in the story, as sometimes he is humorous and at other times his voice is wise and reflective, makes his experiences to the reader more enchanting. From the book, the reader will learn about the challenges a village artist faces in the urban art market and divisive labels like ‘art’ vs. ‘craft’. It is testimony of the enduring power of Indigenous art, which stands strong facing the strong winds of modernity.
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The Night Life of Trees
The book features artworks by three famous Gond artists— Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai, and Ram Singh Singh Urveti—- who used motifs of trees to illustrate the Gond folktales. As a traditional forest dwelling community, Gonds believe in the centrality of trees to human life, as they provide shade when the sun is scorching, shelter and nourishment by day, and sacred spirits by night.
The Gond community believes that art is a prayer and good fortunes befall only those who look at good images. The art doesn’t try to represent reality but to signify energy through symbols that connect human life with the cosmos. The book is remarkable in how even though many Gond artists do not live in the older way, their imagination and inspiration continue to be linked with the forest. Even though the three Gond artists featured in the book belong to the same artistic tradition, each of them has a distinctive style of their as if individuality comes naturally rather than being enforced because the artists are committed to their art form and their creative expression.
The books serve as a bridge between the traditional and the contemporary, showcasing how Gond Art has evolved and gained international recognition over the years. These books on Gond Art not only celebrate the artistic heritage of the Gond community but also set a reminder of the importance of preserving traditional art forms while embracing the ever-changing world. They invite us to appreciate the profound connection between art, culture, and nature, which makes up a significant amount of artistic expressions in our diverse and interconnected world.
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