New Login   


Premola Ghosh

Text by Vishakha Chanchani . Photographs by Stephen P. Huyler
Tulika, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2014, pp. 321, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

Once upon a time Sonabai built a house, far, far away in the remote Puhphutara village of Madhya Pradesh’s Sarguja district. She lived with her husband, Holi Ram and their young son, Babu (Daroga Ram). Holi Ram spent most of the day working in the paddy fields; no one came to visit Sonabai nor did she go out. She was virtually alone, until one day, near the well, she saw some ‘squishy clay’. Could she make some toys for her little Babu to play with? And perhaps some people who could become her friends whom she could talk to sometimes!. As the clay touched her fingers, and her fingers touched clay, something happened! Her heart leapt up and a new light gleamed in her eyes. With this simple act she created a wonder world! Sonabai came from the Rajawar community where the women traditionally decorated their homes with clay relief work. Her inherited artistic talent, however, took her beyond the confines of tradition. Her magical hands worked the clay to make well-remembered scenes of festivals, of drummers with gaily dressed female dancers or an all- male cast of dancers. From the world around her she created foliage, trees, birds, monkeys, deer, snakes and of course, the spiritual world was represented by the flute playing Krishna. Her modest cottage was transformed into a space burgeoning with life and chatter as a myriad little folk peopled her walls. Space was created with screens crafted from bamboo, in circular patterns and masked with clay. Colour too was indigenous, literally from her backyard. Spices and leaves created a veritable palette of green, yellow, red, brown and from the neel used for bleaching clothes, the blue of Krishna was created. The brush was a chewed end of a stick. So Sonabai made her own artist’s studio out of all she could find around her. Sonabai’s husband did not object to her work nor did he complain of her lack of interest in the Kitchen! A group from Bhopal’s Bharat Bhawan came to the area looking for local talent and a potter directed them to Sonabai’s house. They were hardly prepared for this astonishing and highly original talent. The artist Jyoti Bhatt photographed her and the house and the group wanted to take back samples to show the director of Bharat Bhawan, the great painter, J. Swaminathan, her work. She could ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.