Devrai is the local name for sacred groves which over time manifests into small pockets of rich biodiversity hotspots.
A land lay barren ten years ago, but is transformed into a true Devrai, with over four hundred species of trees, shrubs, bamboos and vines. Its now a characteristic art centre tucked away in the hills of Panchgani, where Mandakini Mathur – a storyteller, poet and filmmaker, her husband Atul Mathur an OD Consultant and Executive Coach and Suresh Pungati a decorated Adivasi artist set up Devrai Art Village – a non-profit initiative, in 2008.
Weeks ago when I stumbled upon DAV on the world wide web, an idea of adapting original tribal art form to contemporary tastes appealed to me. This being a training ground for ‘adivasi‘ youth and design interns, alike, is where utility items, wall art, home decor and fittings are developed with tribal nature based designs, in a metropolitan living. These handcrafted products are found in different mediums – metal, stone, bamboo, pottery and papier mache, with a distinct rustic mood.
The trio helps the artisans to evolve creatively while staying true to the traditional craft. Together they’ve mastered techniques like Organic Casting – natural objects directly cast in brass and Pot Dhokra – a fusion of brass with terracotta. And patented Rock Dhokra, a process which fuses brass and stone.
I was awestruck by the artists’ dexterity, of visualizing the whole nine yards in the cerebral cortex without any digital aid. So by etching their name on respective masterpieces, DAV also honors them with intangibles like dignity, recognition and creative satisfaction; attributes which maketh their daily existence worthwhile.
Being a residency of sorts, this is a second home to such skilled tribesmen, who are invited from Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra or adjoining areas of Chattisgarh. DAV’s current strength of nine master craftsmen and ten apprentices, is stealthily breaking down social barriers for four girls in a traditional male bastion.
Simply visiting the museum shop at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai for their artworks might not quench my creative thirst. Instead, a visit to this village studio could be my perfect summer weekend art getaway (a recent addition to my bucket list!).
Devrai Art Village,
Panchgani Co-op Housing Society,
Panchagani-412805, Maharashtra- India