Bengal Patuas or Chitrakars are bearers of an ancient storytelling tradition that is fast disappearing. Islamic by faith, Patua artists represent a unique and secular art tradition, earning their livelihood by telling stories from Hindu mythology, local folklore, Sufi tradition and contemporary themes, through paintings and song. READ MORE
Song sung true
In this video by Sabrang India, Patuas of Midnapur and Birbhum in West Bengal narrate their nomadic and bicultural identities. Listen to the melodic Patar Gaan and experience this art the way it is meant to be.
Spin the colour wheel!
The pigments used by Patua artists are quite organic, obtained from locally available natural vegetation, fruits, flowers, mud/clay, ash from earthen pots and soot from charcoal. While some do make use of modern acrylic colours, most stick to the traditional, organic way of sourcing and processing them in coconut shells. Here are a few colours plucked and their natural source materials.
Behind the scrolls
Though Patuas today use chart-paper as a canvas for their paintings, earlier generations of artists would create their own. These homespun canvases were handmade paper backed with recycled bit of fabric, usually saris, and fixed with homemade glue. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a scroll painting.
Artists Bhaskar Chitrakar and Anwar Chitrakar have found inspiration in their quarantined lives from the streets of south Kolkata. Their paintings, which usually satirise the changing social and cultural realities of the city and the Bengali elite in the best tradition of Kalighat art, now feature the disruption caused by COVID-19. Both these artists have found some levity in our lockdown-stilted lives. While Bhaskar has made the coronavirus a character in his paintings, Anwar’s work describes the usefulness of the face mask to the average Bengali—for eg, it allows you to escape detection from the neighbourhood nosey-parkers!