Saora: Folk Painting of Odisha

Saora: Folk Painting of Odisha

Folk paintings are pictorial expressions of village painters which are marked by the subjects chosen from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, Hindu `Purana`s as well as daily village life, birds and animals and natural objects like sun, moon, plants and trees. The color used extend from a vast range of vivid vibrant colors to subdued low hues, mainly derived from the natural material, while papers, cloth, leaves, earthen pots, stone and mud walls are used as canvas.

Folk paintings are so variable from region to region dependant on various factors including the availability of material in different area. In arid Rajasthan the colors in the folk painting are vibrant and lustrous, painters in colorful Bengal seem to search for relief in sober subdued tones. Artists in Orissa pick out palm leaves for painting. While the women of north India found the whitewashed walls a setting for their colorful paintings, while Oriya artists choose red-clayed wall for white and black paintings.

Saura (also spelled as Saora) are one of the tribal communities of Orissa. The Saora painting is a traditional folk art of the “Saura” tribe of Orissa. They are adept in art, painting and craft. Their well known Saora paintings are fascinating among the people of India.

Saora paintings are done to please the Gods and the ancestors. These drawings are also made for averting disease, promoting fertility, festive occasions, in honor of their deceased and for ceremonial functions. Often, the artist painting on the village walls are directed by dreams and moments of enlightenment.

Some of the characteristic features of these paintings include that the Saoras like many other tribes of India have a custom of making drawings on the walls of their homes. Motifs include horses, riders, monkeys climbing or perched on trees, deer, peacock, dancing villagers, elephants, lizards, tigers, goats, monkeys, sun, moon, huts, cattle, women with baskets, flowers, birds, combs, villagers playing musical instruments like trumpets, drums, gongs, ‘Idital’ the tribal deity, religious folklore, priests, worshippers. Sometimes they also depict dream sequences, seed sowing ceremony, harvesting, and hunting. They show a strong bond between nature and man by their paintings.

Saora painting is painted with figurative pattern and figures are drawn in a stylized manner. A sense of energy and rhythm is seen in Saora painting. Figures are seen holding each other hands and dancing, beating the drums, hunting, riding on the horse, doing their daily chores. All natural scenes are depicted in a very unconventional manner.

The central theme of most Saora, Ittal is a house which is represented by a circle. Figures are placed in the panels like circle, triangular around the Ittal.

The composition of Saora paintings are filled with beautiful representation of flora, fauna and animal life. They express their philosophy that religion is about worshiping, respecting and protecting the nature.

Traditionally, the Saora painting, which are called ‘ittal” are made by anyone who is good in drawing and the artist need not be a priest, but if he becomes adept is known as an ‘Ittalmaran” or picture man. Saora believe they often do see the pattern of their ittals in their dreams.

The artist needs excellent skills to make these paintings since the work on these paintings is fairly elaborate.

For wall paintings, a brush is made from a bamboo split, while black colour is collected from soot generated out of lamps, sun-dried rice is crushed to from white powder, and all these are mixed in water, and juice from roots and herbs to make a paste. The colour that is finally obtained is black and white.

In recent times, artists have also started painting on paper, and on 'American' card boards, and use acrylic colors to paint.

Motifs are stylized and drawn in a particular manner. Different geometrical shapes are used to draw the motifs like for human figure, two opposed triangles which meet tip to tip is drawn first, then add arms, legs and head. They follow the similar technique for the rest motifs.

This Saora printing resembles Warli painting of Maharastra. But it is more intricate and colorful than Warli.

Saora paintings have now become the source of livelihood for many Saora families. Traditionally painted on walls, these painting are today painted on ply wood, canvas, cotton cloth, and paper and tusser fabric. Today, the artists are exploring different mediums and formats to make Saora painting more appealing.











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