Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An evening with Tiwi art

This saturday I went to an art exhibition. Ami was absolutely adamant about going but I convinced him somehow and after having savoured one vegetable biryani each (he ate a paneer paratha as well!), which ensured that our stomachs were more than full, we took an auto for State Gallery of Fine Arts. We had reached Jubilee Hills when I realized that we have come a bit too far, and the Gallery must be some way back. And after a call to Neelima and a nice 1 km walk, we reached the impressive Art Gallery.

We were in a bit hurry because it was 6 now and the exhibition is open till only 7. Let me be honest at this point, I had almost no idea about the subject, the artists or origin of the paintings. Not that it would have made much difference had I known these things, but still!

The exhibition titled 'Kiripuranjee: Contemporary Art from Tiwi Islands' has been brought to India by Art Bank, an initiative of Australian Government.The exhibition features paintings from three major art centres of the Tiwi Islands. The word 'Tiwi' means 'we people' (I thought, maybe Ashutosh Gowarikar could have titled 'Swades : We the people' as 'Swades: Tiwi')

Tiwi Islands are located in the north of Australia, separated from mainland by Clarence Strait. There are two main islands that form Tiwi, Melville Island and Bathurst Island, separated from each other by Apsley Strait.

I had carried my camera, but we were pretty sure that we won't be allowed to shoot, so it came as a great surprise when guard in exhibition hall allowed me to take pictures.

If you haven't, you can see the pictures here

Traditional Tiwi art uses only four colors: black (obtained from charcoal), white (from lime), yellow (from iron oxide) and red (by burning iron oxide). New artists generate more colours like blue or gray or maroon by mixing these colors. Some others use paints. Similarly variety is seen in case of painting brushes. So if older generation uses chewed twigs or body painting brushes, new artists use modern painting brushes.

Most of the paintings featured were on paper but baskets made of tree barks called 'tunga' were also featured. Painted tungas are used in religious rituals as well as daily lives.

What fascinated me most were the 'female' spears called 'Puruntatameri'. I couldn't understand that why these 7 ft. (approx) tall, ironwood spears were classified 'female'!

It was a really good experience. By the way, I am going there again next week. Wanna join me?