Imagining traditions

Sandali in HimalSouthAsian:

Article_mithila_kohbarTara Books, a feminist publishing house located in Chennai, has been collaborating with ‘folk’ and ‘tribal’ artists for the last few years to produce illustrated books for both children and adults. Many of the art forms they have worked with are believed to have evolved from women’s creative expressions within the household, created for the purposes of ritual and decoration. On the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March this year, Tara Books inaugurated a photo exhibition titled ‘From Floor to Book: Women’s Everyday Art Traditions’ at their office, the Book Building. The exhibition, which ran until the end of July, traced the journey of select art traditions across the country, from their original contexts to newer canvases and spaces. A few years ago, Zubaan, another feminist publishing house located in Delhi, showcased artworks by rural women in a travelling exhibition titled ‘Painting Our World: Women’s Messages through Art’ in several cities across the country. As part of Zubaan’s larger project of mapping the women’s movement through visual material, the exhibition aimed to document rural women’s voices on issues ranging from violence, health, communalism and domestic work to marriage, livelihood and the environment, expressed through ‘folk’ and ‘tribal’ art and embroidery practices. While Zubaan’s exhibition captured the overtly political discursive articulations stemming from the women’s movement, Tara Books’ concern seems to lie in understanding meaning-making processes of women – the ways in which they comprehend gender and other social relations through the interplay of quotidian and critical consciousness.

The first of the three sections of Tara Books’s exhibition is titled ‘Everyday Art’. It showcases aspects of an art form difficult to categorise, lying perhaps somewhere at the interstices of craft, art, household labour, tradition and practice. The exhibition shows viewers that women’s everyday art is ‘created’ and ‘displayed’ in the context of the household, and is by nature ephemeral.

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