Here Is Why Tribal Art Is Rooted In Mythology

Tribal Artyour head is immediately filled with terracotta artefacts, stone statuettes and trinkets made with jute. Perhaps you saw them in a museum or bought them at an exhibition. Unfortunately, people’s perception of Tribal Art has remained restricted to what they see in these two places. 

Tribal Art or Ethnographic Art generally refers to craftsmanship arising from tribal cultures. It provides a clear narrative of a community’s way of life through close observation of their culture and active participation. Whether you’re studying different forms of art or just passing through a tribal art exhibit, the one thing that stands out in this art form is the use of mythology.

Mythic symbols, motifs and stories inundate Tribal Artwhether its a painting or a sculpture. Ever wondered why it is so? Here are our theories:

1. It helps in storytelling

Bull Cave Art Lascaux Montignac And Dordogne | Here Is Why Tribal Art Is Rooted In Mythology
Source: widewalls

For long, art has served as a medium of transmitting myths, as well as disseminating heroic values and life lessons. When there were no laptops or books, verbal transmission of stories kept people's experiences alive. Even before we found the first pen and paper, these stories were immortalized on cave walls and fabrics, some of which can be found even today. These tales set an idealistic example for people to look up to and lead their lives. 

2. Preserving history through art

Santhal Tribe Art | Here Is Why Tribal Art Is Rooted In Mythology
Source: swadesi

Murals and paintings depicted the manner of living of different tribal settlements. This was a way of keeping their culture alive and instructing future generations in the way of life. Think of it as an artistic guide/manual to live according to the rules of a community. For the Santhal Tribe in India, their livelihood depended on cultivation and their entertainment on dance. Hence, these become major symbols in their artistic creations. Some of their songs are also dedicated to gods and goddesses thanking them for granting boons or a good harvest. 

3. Act of devotion

Shrinath Ji Shri Krishna | Here Is Why Tribal Art Is Rooted In MythologySource: thebimba

Art is an important form of keeping the glory of deities alive. Art forms like Pichwai and Pattachitra are solely dedicated to narrating tales from Lord Krishna and Lord Jaggannath, respectively. This sacred art was borne out of temples using large canvases to decorate their walls. Be it through wall hangings or murals, devotees got a glimpse of divine tales that were passed on from one generation to the other. 

4. An invitation to God

Kalam Ezhuthu Drawn In Kerala | Here Is Why Tribal Art Is Rooted In Mythology
Source: thehindu

With art forms like Kalamezuthyu, the aim was to welcome deities into the house. These were ritualistic patterns drawn on the floor, dedicated to Kali and Lord Ayyappa. This tribal temple art is a popular feature in Kerala and takes hours to take form. Though it is accompanied by a ritualistic reading of shlokas, that floor art is the pièce de résistance that everybody waits for, patiently. 

Tribal Art uses a wide spectrum of motifs and symbols but it is deeply rooted in mythology. It was reflective of their faith and belief systems which they wanted to preserve for future generations. These paintings and artefacts often have ceremonial and religious undertones and their beauty and artistic finesse is ethereal.

Check out our collection of Tribal Art here ( )

- By Prakriti Bhat

September 12, 2020 — Team Bimba