Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tribal Art In Children’s Books

Let me start with certain definitions based on my understanding.

Typical definition of 'tribe' signifies isolation from the dominant culture, high emphasis on oral tradition, a sense of community, high reverence to nature. To this date tribes exist through out the world. They are separated by geographical co-ordinates, yet there are things that are strikingly common between these tribes that makes one wonder if at some point of time they were all many of the same.

Play a game with me won't you?

Take a look at these pictures.

What are the similarities you see?

Vivid earthy colors. Details. To name a couple.

So are they from the same illustrator? Is it the same style? Are they from the same part of the world?

Let us zoom out and look at the same pictures again.

Three different illustrators from different parts of the world, influenced by different things yet tied by striking commonalities. Though from different parts of the world, all these illustrations can be placed under the broad umbrella of tribal art. The first picture is by Bronwyn Bancroft, inspired by the Bunjalung aborigines of Australia. The second picture is by Pillippa-Alys Browne influenced by her childhood in Zimbabwe. The third picture is by Bhajju Shyam of the Gond tribe, Madhya Pradesh. Amazing right?!

It is easy for an adult or an authority to preach to the children or come up with a class where they are taught all about tribal art and its significance. But delivering tribal art without compromising artistic integrity and making it appealing to the target audience is a fine line many of the children's publishing companies are walking.

Without further ado, some of the books we enjoyed at home and the illustrations that are inspiring us:
Title: Big Rain Coming
Author: Katrina Germein
Illustrator: Bronwyn Bancroft
Publishers: Clarion Books
Ages: 3 - 6
This is a simple story set in the Australian outback. People are waiting for the rain that is yet to come. The only thing that keeps people waiting is Old Stephen's prediction about the rain. They wait from Monday to Friday and finally on a Saturday, sweet rain pours and makes people and animals dance with joy. As you would have noted it is a book for teaching days of the week, but the setting and the illustrations up the quality of the book.

Title: Kangaroos Have Joeys
Author: Stella Blackstone
Illustrator: Philippa-Alys Browne
Publisher: Barefoot books.
Age: 2 - 6
The underlying message this book gives is that babies are loved in all species. You will find pictures of animal babies with their mamas. It is a simple, feel good book, that illuminates the universal bond mothers and babies share. The six year olds can benefit from the specific 'baby names' in different species. Did you know that dragon flies have NYMPHS? See what our lovely Sheela has to say about this book.
Title: That's How I See Things
Author: Sirish Rao
Illustrator: Bhajju Shyam
Publisher: Tara Books
Ages: 3 - 6
Sienna Baba is a visionary. A truly gifted artist who can think out of the box. But do crocodiles have rooster wings? Do pigs have peacock feathers? He is aware that his creativity is scaring people, yet he does not compromise. But the animals he creates have genuine problems. For instance the pea-pig (pig with peacock feathers) says, "I'm in a fix! I can't play in the mud because of these fine feathers, and I can't dance with the peacocks thanks to this face. Do something!". Of course like any generous creator would Sienna Baba rises to the occasion and fixes the problem. Now it is up to you to pick up a book and find out what he did.


Praba Ram said...

An engaging and thought-provoking review on books incorporating tribal artforms. Amazing! You have aptly illustrated your point in the quintessential UTBT way! :) I can see your passion for art across the board!
And I am the first to comment, yay! :)

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

UTBT, each of your picks show your love for art !!
Will check out the books ...

artnavy said...

Gorgeous books and a neat review! I am so getting these books for my shelf.

utbtkids said...

@Praba: You will not believe it, the seed was sown when a close friend visited Australia 8 yrs back and said that natives looked very much like so.indians. When I found BIG RAIN COMING, it just clicked.

@CA: Thanks. All available in SJ lib. The gond art book the lib carries was in was in Spanish.

@Art:You will not regret it :)

Sheela said...

Loved the way you zoomed in on three pieces by artists from different parts of the world to illustrate the commonality, utbt!

Vibha said...

Lovely review utbt,your love for art gets visible thro' your wonderful selection of words.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

All books available in Lib !! Nice !!! Thanks for tip ...

sandhya said...

Could have recognised this as a post by you even if I had not known. Wonderful juxtapositioning of styles.

Saw the barefoot books copy at a Butterfly books sale recently. Really wonderful.

"yet there are things that are strikingly common between these tribes that makes one wonder if at some point of time they were all many of the same." There have been studies at the National Geographic regarding this, proving beyond doubt that humans all over the world have originated from a common source.

Sunita said...

Fabulous fabulous review! Love it.

utbtkids said...

"yet there are things that are strikingly common between these tribes that makes one wonder if at some point of time they were all many of the same."

Thus spake the enthu-cutlet :)))

Sandhya, you are amazing me :)

Sheela, Vibha, thanks.

sathish said...

nice article Anitha.Loved your perspective on the tribal art.

Choxbox said...

Am loving your cluster posts utbt. Each is a treat!

Meera Sriram said...

Great post Utbt! I liked how you presented the three pieces in the beginning and highlighted the similarity. "How I see things" sounds absolutely wonderful!

utbtkids said...

Sunita, Satish, Chox, Meera: Thanks

utbtkids said...

Sandhya , correction to my response to your comment .
I had meant

"There have been studies at the National Geographic regarding this, proving beyond doubt that humans all over the world have originated from a common source."

Thus spake the enthu-cutlet.

Aline Pereira/ said...

Lovely post! I'm a big fan of Bronwyn Bancroft and of Magabala Books, the Indigenous Australian publishing house which has published some of her work. Bronwyn's painting, “You don’t even look Aboriginal,” a personal statement which condemns existing ignorance regarding ethnographic stereotyping, inspired a widely-used classroom teaching unit in Australian schools. You can see painting and find the lesson here:

utbtkids said...

@Aline - Thanks for stopping by.

The link looks very interesting.

Creating awareness about self is probably one of the most important lesson a human being can get. Some people are inclined to do introspection, but that comes at a much later age and usually occurs only when adversity strikes :)

This way of making school kids stop and introspect as a part of their curriculum is great!

Anusha said...

UTBT, this is an inspiring collection, I have enjoyed every one of your reviews, carefully picked, reviewed with your artistic insight and presented with dedication
Thanks for the recommendations.

ranjani.sathish said...

Loved this post Utbt, especially the introduction and the similarities that you have brought out. Actually the first one (Australian aboriginal art) has a lot of Gond like it not ?! Amazing ! Thanks for all these wonderful recommendations

utbtkids said...

Thanks Ranjani, K's mom.

Tara Books said...

Wonderful and thought-provoking post about tribal art and we are thrilled that you included Bhajju and That's How I See Things!

utbtkids said...

Thanks for stopping by Tara. Gond and Warli are favorites at home. How can I not include it in my reviews :)

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