I am a proud, compulsive collector of books from Tara Books. And so, when these new releases arrived in the courier last week, I could barely contain my joy!
Done in Bengal’s Patua style folk art, A Village is a Busy Place! is a quintessential Tara collectible; every bit as artistically thought-through, aesthetically executed and quirkily conceptualized. It opens out as a scroll unraveling, fold by fold, a busy Santhal village and its bustling life over the course of the day or across seasons. Each fold shows a cross section of the village accompanied by an engaging commentary by V. Geetha. Her words give excellent pointers to the reader to look for specific information and tease out a lot more through questions. For instance,
‘Spot the man and woman holding up cones of peanuts! Are some people getting ready to go somewhere?’
Working my way through the intricate filigree-like latticed web of exquisite hand-painted humans, animals, huts and pots and pans by Patua artist Rohima Chitrakar, it took me a minute or so to locate the two with peanuts! But in the process, I discovered so many other interesting details that lay hidden in the deeply rich and intricately done illustrations. The book is outstanding in that way.
My favourite page is the one titled ‘Summertime’. Ms Chitrakar’s impression of the train is delightful. I’m being a bit of a tease by not showing you what it looks like, though!
That is also why you cannot cursorily skim through this book. The artwork is busy, vibrant and incredibly detailed. Its organic feel will make you want to hold it close to you to smell the earth, the fish and the pots filled with the village produce. Staying close to the traditional style of this art form, the artist uses just a handful of naturally appearing colours to paint this joyous village scene against a blazing red backdrop. Each person depicted has a distinct personality (look carefully at the eyes) and together they make a charming snapshot of a vibrant community life.
The book throws the spotlight on way of living vastly different from what most of the children in urban India (or internationally) are familiar with. Though not a Santhali myself, I come from a small town in the Santhal region of East India. But having moved away decades ago from this town where I grew up, I feel sheepish admitting that the village depicted in this book is as alien to my children as it will be a child reading it in New York. And it is only when we pick up such books for our kids do we realize how crucial it is to explore more of these together.
A Village is a Busy Place! is a riveting activity book which makes for an equally mind blowing painting or hangable art; it’s a Patua scroll, after all! It will keep you and your child hooked for hours. And some more, when you sit with it the next time. And the next.
8 Ways to Draw Fish, along the lines of the earlier release 8 Ways to Draw Elephant, is a great non fiction colouring book to introduce some of India’s most celebrated folk and tribal art styles to children. Culturally, the fish holds an important and often auspicious place in our traditional rural milieu. And each art form has its own way of depicting it. Therefore, it is befitting that a book be dedicated to it in all its glory!
Quoting from the media brief: ‘Through tracing, patterning and colouring differently shaped fish and the water they swim in, children learn to explore each of the distinctive art traditions in the book – or just have fun. They also get to experience and understand how art is as much about the imagination as it is about depiction.’
Beautifully designed by Luisa Martelo from Porto / London, this activity book will appeal equally well to adults. I love the way the book introduces the concept of art – beginning from how an object looks like in real life, and what it may finally appear as through an artist’s reinterpretation. And also, that each artist will have her/ his own distinctive impression of the same object, even when operating under the same broader art-form and cultural influences. Indeed, as the second page of the book points out, there are infinite ways of drawing something as simple as water!
It’s a nice big sturdy book. Illustrated by various artists, the different art forms depicted in this book are the tribal art forms of Meena, Gond and Bhil alongside the Madhubani and Patua folk styles. The text accompanying the illustrations is packed with the kind of trivia children itch to lay their hand on! Not to forget the engagingly designed covers, both outside and inside, by Catriona Maciver; it’s a complete visual feast in itself!