Creative Writing

Indian Folk Art and the nation state

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It is helpful to distinguish the Folk arts from other art forms in order to meaningful comprehend the milieu and responses they depict. Classical, Tribal, Contemporary/Modern and Popular are the different forms that subsist alongside the folk arts.
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  It is helpful to distinguish the Folk arts from other art forms in order to meaningful comprehend the milieu and responses they depict. Classical, Tribal, Contemporary/Modern and Popular are the different forms that subsist alongside the folk arts.  Note 2 Some features can be delineated that constitutes a classical art: Classical-Folk ã First, a textual authority must be present that legitimizes and governs the art form. This authority need not be a single text, nor need it be in written form; there may be a set of authenticating commentaries, oral traditions or guidebooks. ã Second the textual tradition must be studied and passed on by trained specialists (gurus, teachers, scholars or performers) who control reproduction of the art form. ã Third, the producers, performers, and their institutions must be supported by a dominant social group. In premodern times, courts and temples most frequently acted as patrons; now a days sponsorship come from government agencies, corporations and cultural institutions constituted from elite groups. Classical dance drama had its foundation in  Natyasastra  and was supported by the emperors;  beginning from the Gupta dynasty (320 CE-550 CE). Classical dance and music in modern India have developed under state bourgeois patronage, being raised to national level from narrow regional srcins. In the case of Urdu poetry, the primary text is Persian poetry. The Mughal empire had stakes in encouragement of this form 1 Scholars conceptualize classical and folk as a continuum rather than a hierarchy. 2 For example, the folk dance form- Gotipua (figure on left) is considered to be the precursor of the classical . They maintain that both folk and classical traditions are coexistent and available (in varying degree) to everyone, as codes switched by rules of context. 1  Shah, Purnima. “State Patronage in India: Appropriation of the ‘Regional’ and ‘National’”.  Dance Chronicle . Vol. 25, No. 1. 2002. pp. 125-14 2  Blackburn, Stuart H.  Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India . University of California Press. 1986.  dance form- Odissi. Both the dance forms co-exist in the cultural tradition of Orissa 3 An art or a tradition therefore can become “classical” over the time as it achieves recognition. Classical dance forms have often emerged from the struggles for remuneration from the “authority”. The competition for support and prestige characterizes the category of most traditions irrespective of their textual srcin. State’s monetary supports for the impoverished artists, security for the endangered art, proliferation are some of the reasons why an art might aspire to cease being “folk” and become “classical”. Sattriya dance form of Assam is a recent example of this transition. It was introduced as a neo-Vaishnavite temple dance in the 15 th  -16 th  century. The celibate male monks used to perform within the premises of the neo-Vaishnavite temples-Sattras and it used to be a medium of preaching and continuing the Vaishnavite traditions. However, during the 20 th  century Sattriya stepped out of the temples. Due to the  persistent efforts, largely from the practioners, it was able to garner the attention of Sangeet  Natak Academy in 2000 to deem itself as one of the eight classical dance forms of India. 4  . Sattriya within Sattra Sattriya performance on stage On the other hand the folk theatre of North and Central India Nautanki is still struggling to “classicize” itself. There have been moves to shift its traditions to enter the ambit of “classical”. Like, while performing for government agencies, they discard their traditional instruments 3  Gotipua an Oriya etymon means single boy; Goti is single and Pua is boy. A dance performed by single boy dancer in women’s costume is known as Gotipua dance. When the dance of the Maharis (female women temple dancers) slowly declined, due to various reasons, the class of these boy dancers was created to carry out the tradition and it is largely from that that the present form of Odissi dance has revived. It is interesting to know that the most of the  present day Odissi gurus were Gotipua dancers in their youth. (paraphrased from: http://www.indianetzone.com/45/gotipua_dance.htm) 4  Sangeet Natak Akademi (or The National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama in English) is the national level academy for performing arts set up by the Government of India in 1952 and it is the governing body for performing arts in India.  (harmonium, shahnai, nagara) and use those which are associated with the classical music (tambura, table) and give their tunes the prestigious designation of “ragas”. However, Nautanki has not been able to augment itself to the criterion of classical form. These exchanges between the classical and folk domains, the rush for legitimacy, government policies and economic, political and social rewards brings the classical-folk contrast to the context of power. Tribal and folk arts overlap. All that is tribal art is a folk art- but folk art can be non-tribal also. Both tribal and folk arts are deeply connected to the community. They emerge from the daily life of a community and are shaped by the environment in which they live. Folk-Tribal Apart from creating cultural identity, folk and tribal arts forms have other social missions. The most important is the collective conscience they produce. The integrity of individuals and equipping them to meet social challenges are a part of this. In the folk and tribal art there is no distinction between the actors and spectators. As the spectator himself becomes a  part of the art, the artist becomes part of the social integrity. What is a tribe? In Anthropology a tribe is defined as- ã A social group consisting of people of the same race who have the same beliefs, customs, language etc, and usually live in one particular area ruled by their leader. In Sociology a tribe is defined as- ã Tribal societies are small in scale are restricted in the spatial and temporal range of their social, legal and political relations and possess a morality, a religion and world view of corresponding dimensions. Characteristically too tribal languages are unwritten and hence the extent of communication both in time and space is inevitably narrow. At the same time tribal societies exhibit a remarkable economy of design and have a compactness and self-sufficiency lacking in modern society. However, there is hardly a tribe in India in the strict terms which fall in the ambit of the above definitions. Communication, interactions, assimilation have rarely left any group untouched in the globalized world. In India a tribe is more or less constitutionally identified and acknowledged. Article 341 of the Constitution provides that the President may, with respect to any State or Union Territory, specify/the, castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of the Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State or Union Territory. Article 342 similarly provides for specification of tribes or tribal communities  or parts of or groups, within tribes or tribal communities which are to be deemed; for the  purposes of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to the various States and Union Territories. The Constitution of India, Article 366 (25) defines Scheduled Tribes as “such tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to the scheduled Tribes (STs) for the purposes of this Constitution”. In the Article 342, procedure to be followed for specification of Scheduled tribe is prescribed. However, it does not contain the criterion for the specification of any community as scheduled tribe. A well established criterion being followed is based on certain attributes such as:- ã Geographical isolation - They live in cloister, exclusive remote and inhospitable areas like hills, forests, ã Backwardness- Livelihood based on primitive agriculture, low cost closed economy  based on low level of technology which leads to their poverty. They have a low level of literacy and health. ã Distinctive culture, language and religion - They have developed community wise their own distinctive culture, language and religion. ã Shyness of contact – they have margin degree of contact with other cultures and people. As per census 2001, 8.2 per cent of the total population of the country is tribal. The policies towards governing the tribal dominated areas and “development” of the tribals are shaped by Jawaharlal Nehru’s philosophy and vision, which still persists in the constitution. They are: ã People should develop along the lines of their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them. We should try to encourage in every way their own traditional arts and culture. ã Tribal rights in land and forests should be respected. ã We should try to train and build up a team of their own people to do work of administration and development. Some technical personnel from outside will, no doubt,  be needed, especially in the beginning. But we should avoid introducing too many outsiders into tribal territory. ã We should not over-administer these areas or over-whelm them with multiplicity of schemes. We should rather work through, and not in rivalry to, their own social and cultural institutions. ã We should judge results, not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the quality of human character that is evolved.
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