Gond art is a form of painting from folk and tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India – the Gond – who are predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, but also can be found in pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, and Odisha. The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element of every painting.
The Gond, are the largest Adivasi Community in India. They are Dravidian and their origin can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. They refer to themselves as Koi or Koiture. Their language is related to Telugu and other Dravidian languages.
Gond Art by Ramesh Tekan
The word “Gond” comes from the Dravidian expression kond, meaning “the green mountain.”
Gond tribe distribution across India
The history of the Gond people dates nearly 1400 years. Paintings as well as other art forms have always been quite popular with tribal people in India, especially the Gond tribe. The Gond people have a belief that viewing a good image begets good luck and they decorate their walls and the floor of their houses with traditional tattoos and motifs. Among the Gond, it is the most prominent among the Pardhan Gonds who are renowned for their artistic skills, be it painting or music. Gond paintings have also been used by the Gond people as a way to record their history.
According to the Gond belief system, all things are inhabited by a spirit and, consequently, are sacred. Gond paintings are a reflection of man’s close connection with his natural surroundings. While a majority of Gond paintings do take inspiration from nature, it isn’t the only source of ideas. They also turn to the myths and legends of India or showcase images from the daily lives and dreams in their art.
Painting Of Animals Taking Shelter Under A Tree by Brijbhushan Dhurve
Wildlife Of Madhya Pradesh – Painting by Brijbhushan Dhurve
Gond paintings can be described as ‘on line work’. Art is created out of carefully drawn lines. Lines are used in such a way to convey a sense of movement to still images. Dots and dashes are added to impart a greater sense of movement and increase the amount of detail. Another very striking facet of Gond paintings is the use of bright vivid colours such as white, red, blue and yellow.
Gond artist at work
The paints are usually derived naturally from objects such as charcoal, coloured soil, plant sap, mud, flowers, leaves and even cow dung. That said, due to the scarcity of natural colours, Gond artists have begun to use poster colours and use canvas to paint on. Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness aboriginal art from Australia as both styles use dots to create the painting.
A Colourful Gond Painting
Today, many talented Gond artists’ works including Suresh Kumar Dhurve’s can be seen on canvases in art galleries internationally. One of the distinctive elements is the use of signature patterns that are used to infill the larger forms on the canvas. A certain sense of balance and symmetry can be observed in the pattern used, such as spiral forms along with trees, leaves, animals and human figures. Painted in several bright colours, the placement of motifs showcasing village life and the blending of human figures with rituals and nature depict the Gond’s inherited skills and creativity.
Nav Graha (The Nine Planets) by Suresh Kumar Dharve
A Gond Art Workshop Video
This is a workshop in Bhopal India at which a group of Pardhan Gond artists worked with Leslie MacKenzie and Tara Douglas to create an animated cartoon of their own folk story.