Adivasi "first inhabitants"

Wether in India or in the Western world, the general public is not well aware of the Indian tribal art. Though the Indian tribal art has nothing to envy from the well renowned other forms of tribal art such as African and Oceanian.

The radiance of the dominating sacred arts related to Buddhism, Jaïnism, Hinduism and the Muslim religion which has over shadowed the Indian tribal art during more than two millenniums, explains our ignorance.

The origin of the Indian tribal art is much more ancient than the ones of the sacred arts. Hence, the Indians call the tribal populations "Advisi" which means "the first inhabitants".

The recent discoveries of numerous rupestral sites in India show some formal similarities between the iconography, still in use nowadays in some Indian tribes and the ones used by their ancestors more than 10.000 years B.C.

Some studies done in India by ethnologists have permitted to preserve a testimony of some Indian art forms which have disappeared today. An important number of these studies was consecrated to the Nagas, a tribe living in the North Eastern part of India. At one time head-hunters, the Nagas were christianised in the 50's. Their outfits as well as their sculptures and their architecture show an artistic creativity rarely equalled.

More than 50 million Indians are living today in the tribal communities. The internal geographic configuration of India, and the near absence of road transport in some areas, still maintain some of these tribes in an almost complete isolation. Far from external influence, these tribes are perpetuating some ritual art forms which are among the most ancient ones. However, the majority of this ethnic groups is getting more and more in contact with the modern world.

The Indian tribal art which is produced today, in contact or not with the modern world, shows the richness and the diversity which characterise this art form.

This diversity could be compared in its formal aspect to the Aboriginal from Australia, the art from Africa or Oceania, and also, and surprisingly, to the "Art Brut" or Modern Art.

The Indian tribal art, as well as some forms of folk Indian art such as Mithila painting, Patua art, etc. privileges the interpretation to the creation. These artists are interpreters of some common joint cultural partitions. The undisputed quality of some of these works shows that the interpretation is considered as a creative act by itself. It is the same in music, dance or theatre, the interpretation is an art by itself.

This blog shows a selection of works, from tribal and folk art, among those that I have collected since 1996 principally in the Maharastra, the Madya Pradesh, the West Bengal and the Bihar states. The choice of these works, principally guided by my views as an art critic, wishes to pay tribute to the evocative title of an exhibition organised by Jyotindra Jain, the Director of the Crafts Museum in New Delhi, "Others Masters".

Copyright textes, photos et collection : Hervé Perdriolle