The distinctive Gond, Mithila, Patachitra, Patua, Pithora, Meena and other tribal art forms are actually book covers of interesting and out-of the box children’s stories. The silk-screen printed, hand-bound books tell folk tales from Madhya Pradsh, West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat and other states. The collection also has stories by well-known Indian and international children’s authors.
This range of titles from Tara Books, a small publishing house from Chennai, can be found at Saptaparni. Tara is one of the pioneers of a different visual vocabulary. They have established a long-standing relationship with master artists of different tribal art forms, who collaborate with authors and designers to bring stories to life.
“The most important aspect in our books is the visual — it cuts across class, caste. Also, our books enable children to read the visual the way they read words,” says V. Geetha, the editorial director.
Ragini Siruguri, graphic Designer at Tara, said at a talk in the city, “The role of a tribal or folk art form can either lead or follow — sometimes the voice of artist is stronger and sometimes it is the text.” In the book, Where Has The Tiger Gone, the artist Dhavat Singh Uikey wrote and illustrated the story, and, “the text gave me the idea for design treatment of the book,” she adds.
Hyderabadis at the talk appreciated the craft, narrative and beauty of these books, “I particularly like The Beasts of India, which showcases animals represented in tribal art forms from all over the country,” says Ratnamala Nori, a retired art teacher and puppeteer.
“I think children have a way of engaging with art,” says Kobita Dass Kolli, an artist. “I think these books feed and enrich children’s imagination. The book on trees, for instance,with different folk art forms allows a child to see the many ways that a tree can be drawn. This is a way of widening their aesthetic and enabling them to think beyond conventional ideas of stories or pictures.”
Isha Rao, an 11-year old from Vidyaranya High School, says, “My mom used to read them for me, I love these books because they are pretty, colourful and so detailed.” And they have helped her develop her own style in drawing. “I draw eyes the way they paint them in Mithila art.”
“A book engages all our senses — touch, smell, vision. We think about it as returning the senses to the book,” concludes Geetha....