Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mandana Painting in India

I've been on a bit of a hiatus lately while working on some artwork on a deadline.  So today's post is a bit short, but about an interesting art form nonetheless.

Kim McManis, a member of my church told me about this art form, so I thought I would look it up and see what I could find out.  She spent several years as a missionary in India and Bangladesh, and saw this form of painting while she was there.  It's called Mandana painting, a type of wall and floor painting by the women of the Meena, one of the oldest tribal communities residing in eastern Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh in India (for more cultural background on the Meena, click here).  The tradition is passed down generationally from mother to daughter.  When asked why they make these paintings, the women reply, "It feels good to make them."  The paintings are usually made as an expression of joy in conjunction with various festivals and seasons of the year.

The walls or floors are first covered with a mixture of red clay and cow dung.  Then the images are painted on with white chalk, sometimes along with red ochre, using brushes made from local bamboo.  Most of the subject matter consists of geometric shapes and designs, plants, flowers and animals (both real and imaginary), and sometimes religious imagery (I couldn't find anything specific on that, except for this image that appears to be Ganesha).  Some of the animals are actual species from the past that no longer live in the surrounding area.  The most popular motif is the peacock.  In some cases, colored glass, beads, mirrors and stones are also used to decorate these paintings.

In 2009 a book about Mandana painting was published, called Nurturing Walls.  The book includes photos of the artists, as well as some of the designs reproduced on a handmade paper that resembles the color of Meena buildings.  The book "focuses on a favorite theme of the female artists: animals and their young. Women teach their daughters to paint the mud walls of their homes, keeping time to festivals and changing seasons... Full-color photographs capture the richness of the artists’ lives, making the form of this book as unusual as the art it re-creates."  You can find a good review of the book here.

For additional images of mandana paintings, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Scott, thanks for sharing this! It definitely resonates aesthetically with me. This is a great example of their ingenuity with materials,too.