Licking the Salt from the Biscuit of Life - ART: Indian screenprint trees

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December 17th, 2007

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07:17 pm - ART: Indian screenprint trees
[info]dark_safari got me an amazing book of Indian Prints for Christmas - The Night Life of Trees.

Each image is richly screen printed by hand onto handmade black paper and describes the legend of a tree from the Gond tribe of India. It's impossible to describe how stunning this book is, although some of the stories that go with the trees are a bit amusing after hearing the made-up nonsense Barratt and Hope did in 'The Pod' with funny little animals talking and going on journeys. From 'The Pod':

After Karapote the Monkey had visited Damush, the woman whose legs made barley, he became very tired and he sat down to rest by a stream. As he sat there, Mamote, the divine bird appeared, bearing the gift of a marvellous shirt woven from shining corn. "Why, this is the finest shirt I have ever seen!" said Karapote, and he put it on and instantly fell asleep. When he awoke he found that both his arms had disappeared and in their place were two magnificent rubies. "Who cares that I have no arms - for now I am the richest monkey in the world!"
From the book:

A squirrel sat on a tree, dreaming. How wonderful it would be to become something other than a squirrel! A tree? But then birds would sit on him... An insect perhaps? No, frogs would eat him... Maybe a fish, then! Only to be swallowed by water snakes? No, thought the squirrel. Better remain a squirrel on a tree.
The Serpent Hood Tree

The Nagphani tree seems to bite, for its branches are full of thorns and its leaves are shaped like the hood of a snake. It has great strength and healing powers. Its wood is hard enough to be used as a crowbar, or to carry a heavy bridal palanquin. And its healing is so gentle and quick that a bullock with sore eyes needs only the sap from the Nagphani mixed with a little bit of water to cure it.

The book was too big to entirely fit on my scanner, but I hope you get some sort of an idea of how beautiful the art is:

Snakes and Earth

The earth is held in the coils of the snake goddess. And the roots of trees coil around the earth too, holding it in place. If you want to depict the earth, you can show it in the form of a snake. It is the same thing.

The Birth of a Fruit

When this tree bears its first fruit, a marriage ceremony is performed for it, just like for people. No one eats the fruit until the ceremony is over, and a holy lamp is lit in honour of the occasion.

The Home of the Creator

The Peepul tree is the home of the Creator, worshipped by Hindus and forest people alike. They come from afar to pour water on the trunk in prayer. The Peepul tree is so perfect that seen against the sky, it seems to have the same shape as its own leaf. The detail is the same as the whole.

The Tree of Intoxication

Gonds make liquor from the flowers of the Mahua tree. If you take small amounts, and mix it with good herbs, it is a medicine for many ailments. If you drink a little more, it is pleasant. But if you drink too much, your very form can change, and depending on your character, you may become a mouse or a tiger, a pig or a pigeon.

The Binding Tree

Mahalain trees are found deep inside the thickest jungles, holding each other in a tight embrace. Because it clings and binds so well, Mahalain bark is known for its strength. Our ancestors from earliest times searched for it in the deep jungles and used it to build houses. A house built well with Mahalain bark is said to last a hundred years.

The Creation of Trees

When Shankar Bhagwan, the creator, made the first man, there was no tree, no leaf on earth. The man said, "Lord, what will I eat? How will I live?" The creator pulled three hairs from his own body, and from them made three great trees. Then the man said, "But lord, there are no fruit on these trees. Three will remain three, and three must die one day." Then Shankar Bhagwan took the ash coating his matted hair and sprinkled the trees with it, and they began to flower and fruit. So in the days before we knew how to grow grain, it was trees that filled our stomachs with their fruit.

The Squirrel's Dream

A squirrel sat on a tree, dreaming. How wonderful it would be to become something other than a squirrel! A tree? But then birds would sit on him... An insect perhaps? No, frogs would eat him... Maybe a fish, then! Only to be swallowed by water snakes? No, thought the squirrel. Better remain a squrrel on a tree.

Arrows on the Sembar

Once there was a girl who was killed by the arrows of her cruel older brothers, as she took shelter in a Sembar tree. her younger brother, who loved her very much, buried her deep in the forest, and on that spot sprang a new and beautiful tree.

The Dumar Tree

The holy Dumar tree, whose fruits look like little birds, is worshipped for nine nights during the festival of Navratri. It blesses marriages, where its wood is used to make the wedding canopy. No mortal has ever caught sight of the Duman's flower. If anyone did, they would be nothing less than a god.

Front cover

Back cover

Artists: Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai, Ram Singh Urveti

(Indulge your wild theories here)


Date:December 18th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC)
These are beautiful!
[User Picture]
Date:December 18th, 2007 08:49 am (UTC)
Yep, sure are. They remind me of the African fabric posts I made before.

And I got your Christmas card today! The drawing is AMAZING! Wow! Creepy too. I'm going to scan that in next and put it on your CJ Cherryh comm. Thanks so much for taking all that time to make such a fun thing.

It makes me want to read her books all over again, damnit. And I've got a huge pile of unread ones as it is.
Date:December 18th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
*g* Thanks! I'd gotten a copy of the Chanur Saga* and wanted any excuse to draw something from that. I'm also enjoying re-reading the series all over again :D

* The Pride of Chanur -> The Kif strike back; the rest of the series (Chanur's Homecoming -> Chanur's Legacy) was released this year (July 21) as a similar compilation called Chanur's Endgame. Won't be available in Australia until next year, but a good bookshop has just opened up in my town, so I'll nab that one too when I can get it.

Speaking of fanart from the series, I found some pretty good examples posted to concept by a guy under the name of 'Masque' (here and here) The Stsho reminded me a bit too much of Jack Vance's Dirdir (to me, anyway), but his Hani are just amazing.

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