What is “Primitive Art”?

Read this research paper by Priyanka Desai on Academia.edu >>

We not just smile, we dance, we sing, we speak – at times ruthlessly from behind the masks. In the age of social media platforms and the growing phenomenon of trolls who are appeased by the idea of hidden identity, I wish to look at the idea of masks that are moulded out of traditions; and hereby make an attempt to find out if they too bear any interpretations of hidden identity. […]

Theatrical performances and Dramatic representations of the religious and mythological stories are a commonplace for the masks to find a position of importance. Thus they have a special significance in the Tribal life. These are disguises of the face, and are worn in dramas and dances. They are used to portray forms other than human – of animals and birds, as divine intervention – of gods and goddesses; as suggesting the evil – of demons and ghosts. […]

Bohada is the celebratory event in the life of the tribals of Bharsatmet Village. It is the annual singing and dancing event of the Kokna Tribe, a festival also celebrated with equal zest by the Warli Tribes here. Though, the festivities are spread all over the tribal areas of Jawhar, Mokhada, and Peth tehsils of Thane, Nashik districts, Bharsatmet holds a place of prime importance for this festival. It is here that the most traditional songas (masks) are preserved for years together, with great fidelity. […]

Subhash Kadu and Bhagwan Kadu, the sons of Dharma Rama Kadu, belonging to the Warli Tribe, are the only living craftsmen skilled in the making of Bohada Masks. Dharma Rama Kadu who learnt the craft from Ramchandra Sonar himself, passed on the skill to his sons, who have now flourished the ‘business’ of the Bohada Masks across the country and around the globe. […]

Source: “MASKED IDENTITY OF BOHADA”, Research paper by Priyanka Desai (2014)
URL: https://www.academia.edu/34434759
Date Visited: 20 February 2023

Masks are found in almost every culture of the world. In prehistoric times hunters knew how to dissimulate and how to transform themselves. They wore animal masks in order to approach their prey without being seen. […]

Among tribal masks, inspiration can be individual and the artist is at liberty to express his fantasy. Ingenuous freshness and instinctive expressionism are pivotal. In the second cultural type, the design and proportions of the characters are canonical and repetitive. The artist reproduces the features of a well known face that he has studied under a master. The shape and aspect are codified. For example, the Hindu god Krishna is depicted blue, and for Buddhists the proportions of the Buddha’s face has a precise geometrical pattern. The art of crafting masks is related to iconographical prescriptions and reflects a pantheon of given characters. On some rare occasions, material relating to Hindu or Buddhist masks, has already been published, but tribal masks of the Middle Hills are virtually unknown to ethnologists.

Ritual masks – of gods, clowns or local demons – originated in the remote past. They had their roots in ancestral and shamanic cults which were later dominated or eliminated by the growing influence of the dominant religions. From an aesthetic viewpoint, tribal masks are probably more intriguing. Their extraordinary variety and the freedom with which they were executed invite us to compare them with modern art, as has frequently been the case with other primitive arts.

The most obvious feature that strikes us in all of these masks, regardless of category, is the total exaggeration and caricatured traits created to impress the onlooker.  […]

We cannot always expect our western aesthetic criteria to apply to Himalayan art. Taste, and hence the notion of style, is often a cultural rather than an individual matter. A folk story illustrates this point well. A Tibetan merchant heard about a beautiful old leather mask in a mountain village and set out to find it. When he finally reached the village three days later, he discovered it was an oxygen mask with a glossy black patina, an old keepsake from a climbing expedition. Piously kept to that day by the local people who had forgotten where it came from, it was used in the festival as a joker mask.

This article has been taken from Art Kitli, a magazine from CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

Source: “Art Kitli: Primitive Art: a vanished reality?” by Eric Chazot, an expert in Himalayan masks and a professional traveller
Address : http://openspaceindia.org/blogs/art-kitli-primitive-art-a-vanished-reality.html
Date Visited: Wed Mar 14 2012 11:48:47 GMT+0100 (CET)

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