Professor Nina Sabnani of the IDC recently received the Gold Award for her National-Award winning animated movie, ‘Hum Chitra banate hain’. The movie is based on the tradition of painting among the Bhil tribe of Madhya Pradesh. The artform is known by the name of ‘Pithora’ and is a form of wall painting. Professor Nina has used this artform in her animation used in the film. She tells that she came across this artform for the first time in Orissa. When she interacted with the Bhils she came across various facts of why the tribe has taken up painting. Painting for them is not only an artform rather they have beliefs attached to it. One of the belief comes in the form of a story that once there was a severe drought and the Bhils went to their priests for for a way to invoke the divine. He suggested that they should paint trees on the walls of their houses, which they did and the rain-god didn’t disappoint them. This not only shows their religious belief but also their commitment towards the environment and its resources. They also consider these paintings as an resort to welcome prosperity to their houses. The painting style has dots used predominantly in outlining figures. The dots are considered to resemble the kernels from the corn that these Bhils cultivate.
Professor Nina for her PhD has worked on the Kavad tradition of storytelling. Kavad tradition as she puts in words is in some sort the pilgrimage brought to the threshold and the process lived in short. The storytelling basically revolves around taking the Yatra for the pilgrimage and becoming the Yatri (losing one’s identity), getting the Darshan (becoming one with god) and the paying the person who helped you get the person who made you have the Darshan, ideally the priest (here the storyteller). Prof Nina also looks at it as a social practice among the backward class of uniting as a community and strengthening their social identities.
Her future plans at IIT Bombay is to develop an open course for design that caters to a large volume of students of the institute and she wants it to be of a hybrid nature between various disciplines. For her plans in terms of storytelling she wants to explore Bengal for possibilities of various forms of storytelling. She also is working on developing merchandise using the Pithora artform but she is finding it difficult to find channels to take it to the market.