The folk art of Patachitra

Pattachita on Wall
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A mélange of music and art that merges seamlessly to tell a story that has the audience enthralled is what the ancient folk art of Patachitra is all about.

Art and music is a combination that seldom fails. And this is where Patachitra scores an ace. It is the bright splash of colour and the lilting notes of the song that accompanies the visuals that creates a compelling imagery that stays in your mind much after the performance.

This is exactly what attracted Mamouni Chitrakar as a seven year old child to take up the art form patronized by her mother and her grandfather. “This is an art that is part of my family heritage and something that I have grown up seeing and listening. Naturally I was always inclined towards it and my mother then taught me the nuances. It is something that we learn just by observing. My mother learnt the art from her father so it is like a legacy that has been handed down over generations,” says Mamouni. Incidentally Mamouni will be in Bengaluru for The Pattachitra Performance; Narratives of West Bengal as part of Forgotten Cultures’ Series. Nazariya an organisation that works on revival of Indian Folk Art and The Courtyard a space for community and culture have come together to bring a brand new series of workshops, Forgotten Cultures Workshop Series, to highlight and revive dwindling traditional art forms.

Pattachita on Wall
Pattachita on Wall

Patachitra is an age old tradition of storytelling in eastern India and a unique art form where oral tradition meets the visual structures of a narrative. The bard presents the story with pictures and simultaneously narrates a song called Pater Gaan. The artists extract red colour from saffron, blue from Aparajita, white from kusum mati, green from runner beans and brown from teak leaves. Gum from wood apple is mixed with the natural colours in a coconut shell and kept in the sun to darken the colours. Mamouni hails from Naya village in West Bengal’s Paschim Midnapore district that has 300 artists residing in 85 homes and all of them practice this art in its traditional form. “Traditionally, the paintings were on mythological stories of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and we use natural colours only. Nowadays, we Patuas paint scrolls on contemporary social issues like 9/11, women, pulse polio, climate change and the like. We do not draw the scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata first as we paint them directly using our brush made with the squirrel tail feather. Only the new scenes are first drawn and then painted,” says the 300 year old Mamouni who paints every day. The entire painting is done on a saree in the traditional form but today artists use smaller handmade paper to paint the Patachitra stories. Mamouni will be presenting traditional stories as part of her performance in Bengaluru and says that this is what she enjoys the most having performed abroad in locations like France, Milan and Washington. So get set for an evening filled with colour, music and forgotten oral traditions of West Bengal. It’s not just a great start to the weekend but also a memory that will last forever.

  • What: Pattachitra Painting by Mamouni Chitrakar
  • When: January 05, 2019, Saturday. Time: 6:30PM to 7:30PM
  • Where: The Courtyard, 105, KH Road, Opposite to Corporation Bank, Bengaluru – 560027

This story first appeared in Deccan Chronicle dated 4th Jan 2019 here:

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