Very often, the real source of inspiration I have found has been from the world I contain within myself. I believe that everybody has their own little worlds within themselves. We all have a safe-haven within us, where the outside world shuts down and it’s just our universe.
My journey has taught me that the bedrock of creativity is continuity. Through the ebb and flow of its changing nature, new definitions of design emerge. For many creative artists in Indian fashion, travel and art co-exist as pillars of ideation; rightly so considering our country offers a wide canvas for travel that opens up multiple windows to its diverse cultural attires, artists, local architecture and the ephemeral cultural transitions, which a city or a region keeps enveloped within itself. I find it a visual delight to see how young artists are synergising their new-age design aesthetics with the aura of our indigenous art forms and effortlessly merging the two universes into a cohesive one. The heartening aspect of folk art is that it is indigenous, carrying many histories and journeys that remain unexplored, which adds a unique edge to each conceptual story evolving from this source, that a style guru attempts to explore.
The process of tribal art moving into print designs, to evolve back into a tangible art form, is at the heart of many designer’s creative processes, unleashing a unique design finish. Gond is one such art form which has taken a centre stage. India’s Gond tribe are renowned by art aficionados for the vibrant artwork they produce. Gond comes from the Dravidian expression ‘Kond’ which means ‘the green mountain’. While Gond paintings are considered to be predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, it is also quite common in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. In their work animals, plants and scenes from daily life are rendered in a colourful, highly patterned style comparable to the aboriginal art of Australia. But up until the 1980s, Gond tribal art was all but unknown to outsiders, its use limited to interior decoration. Forty years later, it is exhibited in galleries worldwide. Back home in India, one can often see Gond Art on the walls of homes and streets in Central India. But who would’ve thought we could incorporate it into our fashion?
Revival of an intricate art, Gond prints are a delightful innovative touch to have been made open for the urban audiences in India. I can’t help but applaud some of India’s finest millennial designers who have captured the finer nuances and indulged in the tribalesque melee of the Central Indian Gond Art to put some breathtaking creations in place. The Gond people have a belief that viewing a good image begets good luck. It’s almost sacred to them; thus they treat their art form with a feeling of respect and reverence. Mostly inspired by myths, legends or natural surroundings, they also showcase abstract concepts like emotions, dreams and imagination. “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life”, remembered as Oscar Wilde’s famous words which tells us a lot about how art resides in every inch of life. This philosophical ideology resonates across the Singinawa Jungle Lodge where time, nature and human evolution coherently weave a drapery of bewitchment at the 1,000 square foot Kanha Museum of Life & Art, co-existing within the estate – singing an epic of the native Gond and Baiga artisans and their labours of love.
Personally, what intrigues me most about this art form is how it depicts the relationship of man with nature, the vivacity of intense vibrant colours and the purity of the raw sketches. If you are someone like me who loves visual depictions on apparels, then you are bound to get swayed away by these designs. In the past few seasons, designers like Divya Sheth, Ankita Choudhary from the label SAAJ by Ankita, Shivan and Narresh and Aartivijay Gupta have brought forth Gond art via collaborations with master craftsmen and artists, to showcase the best in Indian crafts and textiles. The attempt has been to modify Gond paintings in wearable easy comfortable silhouettes. While Shivan and Narresh’s ‘KOI Series’ did incorporate integral elements of Gond Art like decorative motifs, patterns, dots, dashes, lines, and circles in the collection, what made it stand out was how it was played around on delicate organza, ruffles, and flowy fabrics in a variety of hues such as a ‘neel’ or a ‘geru’ giving it a kaleidoscopic, but still a uniquely beautiful look.
One has to give credit to global influences for promoting and showcasing the beauty of tribal art on clothing and accessories, making these even more sought after. A veteran in the Indian market, Ritu Kumar – the designer, continues to write the revival stories of long-forgotten Indian textiles, techniques and traditional art forms with each passing year and these certainly as a brand would continue to stay relevant for decades to come. This is testament to the adaptability and versatile nature of historic art forms that beckons contemporary renditions time and time again.
So is it okay to deduce that folk art is getting its share of spotlight in Indian fashion? We’ve got to a great start. The past few years have been very textile and weaving heavy with Indian designers heroing the country’s textiles in a big way. As a natural progression, we could expect to see more interest in Indian arts as well, and the fact that some of India’s sought after millennial designers have taken inspiration from folk art bears that out. Their projects are not only putting the spotlight on the craftsmanship, but also on the craftspeople and on their places of origin. By highlighting an important aspect of our heritage, they are making people around them more conscious while also helping the art stay alive. However, folk art has been a reference point for Indian designers over the years – any number of designers have used Kalamkari and Madhubani, but somehow in India it has never been a bigger movement.
So what’s changed now? What makes the current journey exciting is that indigenous art designs being available to a more urban premier market is now a sizeable possibility, but to what extent it takes off would very much be wait and watch.
As a die hard optimist I totally agree with Plato who once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”.
MD, Singinawa Jungle Lodge