Living and painting with the tribes of India

The Asian Age.  | priyanka praveen

Life, Art

Artist Anuradha Thakur’s art show — Innate Folklore — will transport you to some of the most interior parts of India.

Artwork inspired by the Himachali tribes

She has worked with some of the most shy tribes in the country, has walked through dense forests to get to these areas and at one point, even found guns pointing at her, but none of these experiences scared her. In fact, artist Anuradha Thakur is all for the adventure that she undertakes for her art. In the city for her show — Innate Folklore — Thakur talks about her work with the tribals of India.  

Thakur’s rendezvous with tribal art started due to a completely different reason. “During my fine arts course, there was a lot of focus on western art and I wasn’t interested in that, so after I finished my course I started working with an NGO that worked with tribals. I would host arts and craft workshops for them and help them earn a small amount of money,” explains Thakur, who worked with the NGO for 22 years before returning to art.

Art inspired by the tribes of Rajasthan at the Pushkar fair

Thakur’s work is so loved that she was even commissioned to paint for the Prime Minister’s office. And the only other thing on par with her art is  undoubtedly the experiences that she has had over the years.

“I’ve worked with over 10 tribes and each of them has taught me something different. Whether it is their paintings, or their clothes and sometimes even their ornaments, everything has found a place in my art,” she says. True to that, her work that has the same human figures in them, with different backgrounds, jewellery and even clothing, depending on the tribe she has worked with.

Artwork on tribes from Jhabua, MP. This art piece was inspired by the Bhagoria festival of Bhil and Bhilal tribes

For her work, Thakur is able to visit just one tribe in a year. “It isn’t an easy process. Finding someone who would get you to the tribes and befriending them is difficult so I usually stick to one project in a year,” she says. With work that has taken her to some of the most interior parts of the country, Thakur has also faced some challenging, albeit interesting times. “I was visiting one tribal area where there was some unrest. I spotted Flamingos and was about to click them and suddenly, I spot guns sticking out from behind the birds. When I put the camera down and turned around, there were guns around me. However, nothing happened. But I will never forget that,” she says. Another time, in the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, her encounter with a Gond tribe left her thinking. “This tribe didn’t even have matchboxes, they would start a fire using stones. Yet, they were so kind and gave me space within their homes,” she reminisces.