Love Tribal Art? World's First Dedicated Gond Art Gallery in India

Gond tribal art. Acrylic on canvas by Nankusia Shyam.
Sharell Cook

India has so many diverse art forms that reflect the country's rich traditional heritage. However, due to the problems faced by tribal communities, such as loss of land and integration into mainstream society, the future of Indian tribal art is a concern. The number of artists is dwindling, as tribal folk culture has deteriorated and become neglected.

Fortunately, the Indian government and other organizations are making an effort to preserve and promote tribal art.

If you're interested in tribal art, one place you can't miss visiting is Must Art Gallery in Delhi. Established in 2010, it's the world's first art gallery dedicated to tribal art from the Gond community -- one of central India's largest indigenous communities. Their art is characterized by patterns of dots and dashes. It's inspired by folk stories, everyday life, nature, and social customs. The works at Must Art Gallery consist of contemporary paintings and sculptures from the Pardhan Gond tribes, and many international artists are represented there.

Also under the same roof is Gallerie AK, which specializes in all forms of traditional, contemporary, and modern Indian tribal and folk art. This includes Madhubani, Pattachitra, Warli, and Tanjore paintings.

In total, the two galleries have an impressive collection of around 3,000 pieces of art. They sell books on various tribal art forms as well.

The founder and director of both these galleries is Mrs. Tulika Kedia. Her story is inspiring. An advocate of modern contemporary art, she grew up in India's cultural capital, Kolkata, surrounded by paintings, sculpture and objets d'art. It was on her travels through India with her industrialist husband that she became enamored by the "naive intensity" of the art of India's tribal communities -- the Bhils, Gonds, Warlis, Jogis, and Jadu Patuas. She decided to devote herself to preserving this tribal art by setting up a platform to market the artists' paintings and sculptures. And, thus, her two art galleries were created.

The galleries are located in the basement at S-67, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi. They're open seven days a week from 11.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m. Call 9650477072, 9717770921, 9958840136 or 8130578333 (cell) to make an appointment. You can also get more information and make purchases from their websites: Must Art Gallery and Gallerie AK.

Tribal Museum of Life and Art

Mrs. Kedia also owns award-winning Singinawa Jungle Lodge near Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. There, she has set up a unique tribal Museum of Life and Art that houses many important tribal works acquired by her over the years. The museum documents the culture of the indigenous Baiga and Gond tribes and is an insightful place to learn about their lifestyles. Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, jewelry, everyday items, and books. The accompanying narratives explain the meanings of the tribal art, significance of tribal tattoos, origin of the tribes, and the intimate relationship that the tribes have with nature.

In addition to exploring the museum, guests can connect with the local tribes by visiting their villages, watching their tribal dance, and taking painting lessons with a local Gond artisan.

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