Ancient history has showed us that paintings have been used as a means of communication be it the cave paintings of early man or the archaeological finds of many great civilizations or the pictographs seen in later settlements. The origin of Warli art can be traced back to about 15,000 years ago. Warli house is considered to be vernacular architecture that is which has been established out of necessity and is found to be in consonance with climatic conditions, local materials and historical, cultural and traditional influences.
Warli art has been deemed by many as a brilliant abstraction of mundane routine in the form of paintings. The paintings when looked on closely are made from basic geometric shapes such as dots, lines, triangles, circles and semicircles to make human figures, animals, sun, moon, mountains, water and other aspects of nature.
It is such an ingenious technique that some of the artwork leaves you awe-struck. I remember I saw one on the outer wall, where there was a tap fixed on the wall and above that there was a painting of a pot with water flowing out! Such simple analogies but so well-defined – it almost appears that every square inch of both the interior and exterior of the house has its own story that needs to be pondered over.
As such, this traditional house is built using local materials like mud plastered walls that are made of ‘karvi’ (soft stem of Strobilantes Callosus Nees plant) and supple bamboo. Cow dung is used to plaster the floors while the roofs of the houses are thatched with palm leaves and paddy straw that keeps it cool even during hot summers. These are extremely strong and can withstand heavy monsoons. This climatically responsive structure loses heat quite quickly and also allows for air to move in during the hot and humid climate because of its light structure.
The depiction of social life is very interesting as all settlements historically have thrived on a flourishing social genesis. The equilibrium of repetitive works (hunting, dancing, sowing and harvesting to name a few) and nature led to an organic growth and with that an establishment of certain dynamics particular to that settlement. The rhythmic paintings in white of simplicity on the mud base makes them very attractive and captivating and leads one to think about the austerity, sensibility and intelligence of these people to come out with such extraordinary levels of abstraction and expressionism.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)