Adivasi art: from “primitive” to contemporary


I propose a twofold presentation. The first and main part traces the story of the recognition of adivasi expressions as ‘art’, from the colonial collections of ‘primitive bronzes’ in the XIXth century to the claim of an adivasi contemporary art in the 1980s (J.Swaminathan and Jangarh Singh Shyam). In between, we follow key events like the invention of the category of ‘tribal art’ by V. Elwin (1951), the institutionalization of India’s national arts and crafts during the nehruvian era, the essentialization of such arts (as expression of India’s ‘nature’) by Stella Kramrisch and Pupul Jayakar, before the new era opened by Jyotindra Jain through ethnohistorical enquiries from the one hand, and patronage of individual adivasi artists from the other.
The second and shorter part will be dedicated to a regional example: the case of adivasi art in present Odisha, where the “saora/sora design” is everywhere, and has been largely appropriated by regional painters, while very few Sora actually take part in this success.

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