Wednesday January 17, 2018

After 20,000 years, world’s oldest people are facing Crisis of Culture

The San's people can be found across Botswana, Angola Namibia and South Africa. Also, known as Basawara, these people lead a very nomadic life which has not changed for over millennia.

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Image source : CNN
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The indigenous people of Botswana (South Africa) are only living link to the ancient Africa, there hunter gatherer ways dates back to 20,000 years. They are known as San. DNA test show that they are direct descendants of first Homo sapiens. But now they sit at a crossroads where their culture, traditions and heritage can be lost forever. People sciences have proved that San’s are likely to be the oldest and continues population of human on the continent and on earth.

The San’s people can be found across Botswana, Angola Namibia and South Africa. They are known Basarwa in Botswana region. Basawara people lead a very nomadic life which has not changed for over millennia.

“If this Culture is not preserved, if this Culture is not passed on from one generation to another it is going to die later on. Culture is something that can die and we should understand that culture is dynamic,” says Bihela Sekere, part of the indigenous population who previously worked at the Botswana High Commission in London.

As a child Bihela and his family lived in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The national park in the heart of the desert is the second largest game reserve in the world. It was there that his father taught him the ways of the Basarwa. But in 1997 The Government began to remove Basarwa from reserve, to protect the area and integrate their community into the society.

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Now the Basarwa people live in the resettlement village, trying to pass on age-old tradition.

“Some of the kids, Basarwa kids, are taken to schools (and) they can lose their culture because they are taught other ways of living,” explains Sekere. “To start with the language — if they are taught Setswana and English, it means the language will suffer.”

“Culture is Dynamic it changes, as much as you interact with other cultures, more people and more development coming in you stand a chance to lose your culture. Culture is old but it is what lets you know who you are and a nation without its culture is lost nation.”

But San’s people still have hope that they can preserve their culture. A local man Xontae believes that through tourism their culture can be preserved . He guides people around “The mountain of God’s” Tsodilo Hills, which is also UNESCO world heritage site and a national treasure. The mountain contains 4500 rock painting spread across 400 different location which dates back to Stone Age.

Painting on Tsodilo Hills. Image Source: CNN
Painting on Tsodilo Hills. Image Source: CNN

Sekere said “It will be very good for the Tsodilo Hills to be used as a tourist destination. By using the locals the people who grew up here and know the history behind this hills and paintings that will itself make it unique and special for the people from outside world to come and see what the San’s people have.”

Meanwhile Kuru Art project is an initiative which seeks to revive the art making among the Basarwa once more.

“Gradually as time went on hunting and gathering lifestyle changed. With time obviously the land got divided and the people lost movement their rights like before and so the art provided that. Art project became a way through which they wanted people to understand who they were.” Said Ann Gollifer who is a visual artist in the Botswana who been involved in the project.

Kuru Project. Image Source: CNN
Kuru Art Project. Image Source: CNN

She also said that the work the Basarwa create mainly depicts a hunter-gatherer lifestyle of yesteryear. Using modern mediums to paint ancient traditions, these artworks have sold all over the world.

Hence there is still hope there for the Basarwa people, who want to preserve their culture and heritage.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and is a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.