8888677771 | A painting exhibition of a different kind in Odisha’s tribal heartland

It was a painting exhibition of a different kind featuring a group of artists who were anything but conventional. These weren’t individuals who had already established themselves in the art world, earning a living from their creative endeavours. Instead, they were predominantly farmers and homemakers, individuals whose artistic talents had largely remained hidden within the confines of their villages.

When the Odisha Lalit Kala Academy (OLKA) embarked on a journey of nearly 400 kilometers from the bustling capital city of Bhubaneswar to the quiet, unassuming village of Rejingtal in the Rayagada district, the magic began to unfold. The academy had requested tribals belonging to Saura community to paint their homes with Idital, a traditional Saura tribal mural painting. The result was nothing short of breathtaking.

Ritual purpose

According to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI), Idital paintings are made using rice powder on a background of red oxide.

There are sixty-two types of Idital, each for a specific occasion or ritual. These paintings are done by the community to show respect and gratitude to their deities, forefathers and also for the well-being of their villages.

These Saura paintings display images of village agriculture, hunting, harvesting, hills and mountains, tribal life-style, their marriage and dance, worship of their deities made up of mud, different birds, animals and insects.

“Idital paintings are widely appreciated in the art world. Some Iditals adorn living rooms in cities. We wanted to see how Iditals are painted by their original creators in their own backyard. That was how the idea of holding a live exhibition in Rejingtal came through,” said Padma Shri Sudarshan Pattnaik, the famous sand artist and president of OLKA.

Although OLKA paid Rs. 10,000 each for the mural paintings, these painters, whose daily lives revolve around agriculture and homemaking did seize the opportunity to showcase their skills to the world.

Village to gallery

“The whole village looked like an art gallery. Their creativity left a lasting impression on all,” said the acclaimed artist. The painting exhibition that began on September 28 and continued till October had more than 50 Saura artists. They painted their own houses with Iditals they have been portraying since time immemorial.  

Mr. Pattnaik said, “the exhibition will surely ignite the minds of Saura painters who have remained confined to their villages and encourage them to look for markets to showcase their talents. The Saura have realised that their Iditals are not a dying art. There are many admirers of the artform.”

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