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SYMBOLISM IN GOND TRIBAL ART
Tribal artist Durgabai Vyam recently finished her first graphic book, Bhimayana, a non-fiction book about Bhimrao Ambedkar. Washington Post's Rama Lakshmi met with Vyam and her husband, Subhash, to understand the richness of their craft and throw more light on the genre which is fast gaining acceptance and following in India. Comparing graphic works on pressing world problems such as the Holocaust, Palestine and the Bosnian war, Lakshmi points out: "This book is different in that it jettisons sequential, cinematic narrative style and brings visual magic realism into a new universe. Symbolism tells the story. The Vyams are renowned practitioners of Gond tribal art, traditionally painted on floors, walls and doorways of mud huts in villages. The indigenous art form made the transition to paper and urban galleries only three decades ago. The edgy graphic book is the latest incarnation of their ancient art. " Subhash emphasises that symbolism is central to Gond art. "Years ago, the couple drew the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks after hearing about them on the village radio. They never saw the troubling newspapers and television images. Their painting showed two tall thatch-roofed mud huts and a bird gently swooping down to hit them. " "Even the speech bubbles in Bhimayana are shaped like animals. 'If you speak sweet words of truth and justice, then your bubble is like a sparrow. If your words are going to sting and cause pain, then the bubble is like a scorpion, ' Subhash Vyam said. "
MULTICULTURAL? NOT REALLY
India prides its unity in diversity. The billion-strong democracy is home to people from varied ethnic backgrounds and languages yet the differences melt away in its multicultural pot. However, in New York Times Lydia Polgreen in her article point sout that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is the only blood-soaked exception. "Nearly 60 civilians have died in angry protests against India's military presence there, and the cry for self-rule seems to grow stronger with each new body interred in this city's growing Martyrs Graveyard. India has tried brute military force, Indian-style democracy and porkbarrel spending. Nothing has worked. Why has India's charm, so effective elsewhere, failed it here?" Polgreen speaks to a cross-section of experts to seek answer to her question. "' This is a genuinely international dispute, ' said Ramachandra Guha, a historian whose book, India After Gandhi, details the messy process by which Kashmir became part of India after partition in 1947. 'India has a case for its position, but it is not foolproof. '" She gives a detailed history of the state and how the present discord took shape over decades. "In the decades after independence, Kashmiris might not have been particularly happy with Indian rule, but violent revolt against it seemed unthinkable.
It was not until the 1970s and '80s, when India's democracy was most deeply imperilled, that a series of stolen elections and broken promises planted the seed of rebellion. Pakistan, eager to wrest the region from India by force, helped start an insurgency in 1989. " Today the Kashmir insurgency has been all but vanquished, writes Polgreen. "The question India faces now, analysts say, is how to convince Kashmiris that even if independence were an option, being a part of India is a better choice. "
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