The Premiere Screening of the Tales of the Tribes series of short animated films was held on 3 July 2017 at Patangarh village, Dindori District, Madhya Pradesh.

      Tara introduces the Tales of the Tribes to the first audience at Patangarh

This long anticipated event was part of the programme that was organised by the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS, Bhopal),  entitled  Chitranjali: a creative tribute to late Jangarh Singh Shyam by tribal artists.

       Jangarh at the Magiciens De La Terre exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, 1989

To provide some background:  Jangarh Singh Shyam, born in 1962, was the first folk artist from Pantangarh village to adapt the local village designs to new materials such as canvas, acrylic paint, paper and ink, thus bringing it from the rural setting into its new, widely recognised position as contemporary Indian tribal art. Jangarh had  in fact grown up in extreme poverty, which led him to abandon his formal education and take up farming.  However by chance, a group of researchers from Bhopal under the direction of the contemporary artist Jagdish Swaminathan, arrived one day in Patangarh village and they were enthusiastic about Jangarh’s creative talent.  He was  invited to relocate to Bhopal, where he was provided with the new materials and encouraged to develop his art.  He not only made the difficult transition from tribal to urban life, but he also gained almost instant recognition  nationally and internationally.  However, on a visit to Japan in 2001, tragedy struck when Jangarh took his own life at the age of 39.  Not only had he become a phenomenon during his own life, but Jangarh had always encouraged others in his family and village to develop their artistic practices too.  Today Patangarh is a village of artists, and many who migrated to the city to follow this profession have since become well recognized artists in their own right, amongst them are Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, Rajendra Shyam, Dileep Shyam and Vijay Shyam.

These four artists have had a vital role in the Tales of the Tribes animation project, as they have been our cultural consultants for the Pardhan Gond story in the collection, Manjoor Jhali, the creation of the Peacock.  It all began back in 2012, when three of the artists were invited to join the Animation Workshop organised at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.  There they met, interacted and collaborated with a group of Post Graduate students of Animation Film Design, with  coordination by Tara Douglas, from the UK based Adivasi Arts Trust.  The group chose their classical folktale of the peacock because the peacock has iconic status  in India;  furthermore, peacocks that roamed in the forests of Madhya Pradesh,  held a special place in their hearts and they further claim to have learnt how to dance from the peacock who dances in the thunder storm.
Several years and two workshops later, and the story of the creation of the peacock was completed by a new team of young animators from the National Institute of Design.  It is a gentle, contemplative tale that proclaims the virtue and benefit of being satisfied with what one has in life – the lesson the peacock himself learns when he  comes to terms with his ugly legs.

Tribal folktales in general do carry important messages: indeed, one of the main purposes for retelling these  tales was to impart wisdom in an entertaining way to the young generation of listeners.  The animation film is a significant step from the rural origins of these stories that were once recited by the local priest, or by the family  elders to pass those long dark evenings in the village.  However, through this new medium, more people will now able to enjoy the stories and learn of the local wisdom they contain, and in the process, a new generations of artists  also learn how to use the digital tools that are undoubtedly part and parcel of  the modern world.