This Arts Council Reimagine India project brought together artists and organisations from the UK and India (the Clay Foundation, the Harley Foundation, Manchester Metropolitan University, CEPT University Ahmedabad) to design and deliver a multi-media residency project exploring the cultural tensions around India’s rapid urbanization. The project considered the sustainability of traditional crafts practices and processes, from the perspective of Warli painting, one specific example of India’s rich and diverse crafts heritage.
The project focused on Palghar district in Maharashtra, the Warli community heartland, and on the traditions of Warli painting, which celebrate cultural, ancestral and material connections to the landscape. This landscape, and the practices associated with it, are increasingly threatened: the fabric of the landscape, the forests and the clay beneath are diminishing, fueling the local brickworks and the accelerated urbanisation associated with India’s globalizing economy.
Artist Ramesh Hengadi and a team of Warli painters, brick-makers and musicians acted as facilitators and practitioners, hosting a residency in January 1917 with artists Jo Ayre, Stephen Dixon, Lokesh Ghai, Jasleen Kaur, Johnny Magee, Anjum Malik, Jason Singh and Jay Thakkar. Operating within the context of the Warli tradition of pictorial narrative, the visiting artists responded to the visual, physical and sonic materials present in the landscape, collaborating in new works which explored the cultural ‘heartbeat’ of this fragile rural location.
The Heart:beat residency culminated in a multi-disciplinary and experimental installation/event, featuring sonics, clay-work, painting, film, and storytelling, which laid the conceptual foundations for further work towards establishing a Warli Kendra (school) in Bapugoan. Outcomes from the residency were exhibited in Bapugoan and Ahmedabad in India, and at the BCB 2017, the Harley Gallery and Touchstones Gallery in the UK. Project legacy in the form of film, audio, and project publication extended the exchange and widened international public exposure to the project outcomes.