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Warli Art: An Art That Narrates a Story

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Image Credits: Nathu Sutar

The Indian subcontinent is known for its plethora of art forms and cultures. The melting pot of diversities has given enough room for the development of varied art forms in different parts of India. Each art form is unique to its tribe and represents the culture, lifestyle, and traditions of the tribe. One such art form that’s gaining global importance due to its enchanting beauty and bewilderness is the Warli Art. The Warli Art is native to the Warli Tribe of Maharashtra who at present, stays near the outskirts of Mumbai. The Warli paintings are very distinctive with their storytelling nature, depicting the various seasons of harvest and how it affects the lifestyle of the tribe.

Warli Art – The Craft

The Warli Art, one of the traditional handicrafts of India, is generally made on the red mud walls using white paint. The organic white paint is made by grinding rice into a white powder and mixing it with water and in some cases, oil. The art is predominantly done by using basic geometrical shapes like circles, triangles, and squares.

The geometric shapes stand as a symbolism of the elements of nature. For example: The circles represent the sun, the moon, and the planets whereas the triangles are used to represent the mountains. Two inverted triangles put together make for humans, where the upper triangle denotes the upper torso and the lower triangle stands for the lower body. These triangles coming together and meeting at the point is a symbolism for the balance in the universe.

The Warli Art demonstrates the day to day living of the Warli Tribe, their flora and fauna and their seasons of harvest.The paintings depict the happiness and celebrations, where the Warli Tribe is dancing in joy and celebrating. These depictions are made in the form of quirky paintings that are mysterious to the eye and enchanting at the same time. While there is no evidence of the origin of the Warli Art, it is known that this artform has been around since the 10th century AD. These paintings are similar to the cave paintings of the old civilizations of India, where humans are represented by a triangle and an inverted triangle coming together.

The Warli Art in recent years…

Warli Art came to light only in the past few decades gradually by the art connoisseurs who dug its roots and brought this art to the limelight. The present Thane area of Mumbai, India has the inhabitants of the Warli Tribe where they still practice the art, carrying it to the canvas. A canvas with the painted Warli Art today holds a special place in the Indian Handicrafts sector. The canvas Warli Art is slowly making its place on the walls of the modern art galleries and of homes of art lovers. The social life of this ancient tribe, their lifestyle, culture, harvest, & celebrations kept alive in the form of the Warli Art before it fades away in the pages of history.

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