WORK by TANIMA DHAR
Tanima worked as a rural advertiser in India prior to migrating to the UK where she continues to work directly and indirectly with folk artists of India. As a transnational artist engaging with multiple traditions, Tanima works with a Fairtrade body, SHRI (meaning woman), that is committed to the revival of forgotten heritage textiles.
Her textile works intersect with socially responsible projects such as LAL concerning the welfare of artisans. This is apparent in their commitment to women’s health in the apparel industry through the distribution of reusable sanitary towels; and in highlighting textile arts such as masks as the novel medium of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Little Writer's Studio connects traditional artists to younger generations who pen their own stories or poetry of the folk artists adding intergenerational depth to the visual resources of her collections and design practices.
Between Home and Workplace I
Between Home and Workplace II
The role of a professional woman in society is the theme of this series of pandemic art works ‘Between Home and Workplace I and II’ made by Tanima, SHRI women artists and youth from the project, Little Writers Studio. The children collect stories and reflect on the dual role of their working mothers within the family. Folk motifs drawing from Madhubani designs are used for pandemic masks and digital communications. Here, Tanima tries to connect her social work with her design practices rooted in traditional patterns, line drawings, and details from text and language to communicate safety and health issues, and women’s involvement in managing the crisis.
‘Ardhanareshwar’ relays the traditional tale of Shiva and Durga representing the combined power of man and woman through a contemporary narrative based on real-life experience of a transgender couple. During Tanima’s fieldwork, she encountered a couple, both of whom called Rani, who shared their experience of family discrimination and community violence in the village of Madhubani.
Tanima worked with the couple to depict their troubled emotions by using the Madhubani art form for which the village is well-known. Their stories are depicted in the pictorial scenes that unfold in the anchaal part of the sari, much of which they painted themselves along with Tanima’s designs in an unhindered and fearless fashion.
Through artefacts and apparels like ‘Designed Stitch’ based on folk arts, Tanima uses her designs to provide a crossover of traditional saris and other stitched materials to trendy apparel motifs (such as birds as emblematic of freedom).
Traditional Bengali patachitra is used for the sari painting called ‘Durga’. The picture depicts feminine power and is painted by patuas (scroll painters) in the village of Pingla. Although most of the patua are Muslims, they use Hindu mythology as subjects of their paintings. Tanima designs the sari working with Putul Chitrakar from the village using the pat style of painting but changing the colours and motifs. In doing so, she transfers the medium of art from scroll painting to textiles described as ‘wearable art’.
‘Chandsaudagar’ draws from a folktale from Bengal, depicting how fortunes of male merchants were tied to feminine power and influence. As wearable art, the piece is a statement about the empowerment of women. Tanima uses the Bengali script in the part of the aanchal that has cultural meanings and is valued differently across generations. The aanchal, for example, could be cut out by the younger generation who often use sari materials to frame a piece of art for display. She is therefore able to diversify and communicate the motifs of folk art to different audiences.
‘Manasamangal’ depicts the story of the snake goddess using the traditional arts of Bengal patachitra imprinted on a utility product. The item is designed like the household kulo (bamboo tray) that is associated in particular with Bengali women’s creativity. Such fusions keep folk heritage alive in the form of ‘utility art’ used for rituals and festivals among diaspora communities.