Art Directory India

Cheriyal: Art of the Tellers


Have you ever wondered how story telling was like back in the 16th century? It certainly was not like story books sold today- shiny, three dimensional, or make it while you read it. Story books are like sheets of imagination that fill wonder and curiosity in the minds of little children and adults to. They are like dreams which one can read again and again without forgetting and in turn learn something out of it. However, back in the 16th century stories were not just that. They were more about the reality of life, the rebels and warriors who paved their ways through hardships and grave. They were like records of victory and defeat.

Cheriyal or Cheriyal Nakashi scroll painting is a local art form that originated from Telangana. This art form was and is exclusively painted by ‘Nakashi’ artists only. Alongside being traditional artists, Nakashis were also travelers. They shared their stories with locals as they travelled from village to village- through their unique scroll paintings. These scroll paintings were unlike any other type of tribal traditional painting. The bold color scheme, the theme of the paintings, and most importantly the method of preparation varied from other types of 16th century traditional art.

To begin with, this art form consists of five colors- red, green, yellow, black, and white. All of these colors are made using natural colors with tree gum being the base. Tree gum helps liquefy the colors so they can be suitable for painting. “Red is made by finely crushing red stones, yellow is made using fine turmeric powder, blue is made using crushed flowers, while white is made using finely crushed seashells” Mr. Rakesh Nakash explains in the interview. Mr. Rakesh Nakash and his family are the only Nakashi family that still continues their legacy of Cheriyal Scroll Paintings. He further explains that the canvas used to make the paintings is handmade and is solely made for this art form. He adds “layers of white paste- white mud, boiled tamarind seed paste, rice starch and tree gum- are spread across khaki canvas which keeps the natural colors from fading away.”

He then continues to explain the significance of these scroll paintings and how they have evolved from the 16th century. “Initially Cheriyal art was used to make big announcement banners because of their bold and rich colors.” He explained how each color has its own significance, for instance, the color white was used to depict saintly figures while red was mainly used in the background to highlight the elements in the painting. This also caused Nakashis to use this art form to show and tell stories as they travelled from place to place. He further added “The types of stories painted on the scrolls were mostly based on Indian mythology and life during the 16th century. They signified the simplicity of life with the use of simple block and bold color schemes.”

However, the art form has evolved in a way to adjust with the modern tastes of people. For instance, Cheriyal paintings are now being painted on wearable clothes like saris with the use of artificial colors. This was a short description of how Cheriyal Scroll Paintings had come to be and how they are now. The point that stands out the most is the fading authenticity of this art form as it tries to adjust itself to modern preferences.

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