These are a few of my favourite things….
I am constantly delighted and fascinated by Gond artwork such as the paintings below, which illustrate the extraordinary imagination and beliefs of these forest dwelling people in Central India. One life form often morphs into another, symbolic of the interconnectedness of all life - plant and animal. The same strange birds, flying snakes, animals and fantastic trees are found in the traditional songs of the Pardhans, the musicians of the larger Dravidian speaking Gond family, and are very much part of the folklore.
One of the best examples of this is the coloured painting on canvas of the mystical tree with the weird turtles with snake appendages attached to the top of a tree, below which the earth is clearly supporting all life. I cannot pretend to understand enough to begin to explain this further. It does intrigue me that the creatures one might associate with the earth or sea are the ones depicted flying high in the air, although they are anchored to the earth by the snakes.
As with most Indian folk art, Gond paintings were originally painted as murals on village hut walls. While the paintings follow traditional conventions, some artists develop their own motifs with which to fill the outlines of images. These are often based on shapes found in nature such as seeds and cut lemons. The use of dots has been explained as the atoms of the life form – an idea with its roots in the experience of the shamans, who describe feeling the particles of their bodies disperse into the universe to join with those of the spirits when in a trance.
Many examples of this can be seen in the quite lovely drawing of two peacocks.
It is believed that the Gond people ruled the kingdom of Gondwana – situated in eastern Madhya Pradesh/western Odisha - from around the 13th until the 19th century. The Gond artists are still predominantly found in Madhya Pradesh although Gond people are also found in Chhattisgarh and throughout central India.
One image recognised throughout India is of course that of Ganesh, and this simple yet detailed depiction is one of my favourites. The hand with the Om symbol and the trident on his forehead are what mark him as Ganesh and not just an elephant. He is shown with the sun shining above him.