At noon we arrive in a small tribal village in the mountain region, close to the border of Kerala. The view from this place down on the hills is beautiful. Less than 20 families live here, a hundred people. Under a tree, in the middle of the road (there is just this only one) they have prepared our welcome: a nicely decorated table with flowers, fresh fruit, grapes and bananas, cookies. And chairs.
Most of the women wear the same sari, a very nice one, violet with small glittering pearls. It is their self help group (SHG) dress. They wear it on special occasions … As in many other villages they show us their SHG books. On some book covers there are small paintings or flowers cut off some magazine. All of the meeting and saving books I have seen so far are very clean, often wrapped into paper to avoid that they get dirty. People really care about them. But these books here are an expression of a special atmosphere in this village that I have felt right from the beginning: a very high level and interest in arts and culture.
School education is important to them. Some of them send their children to Kerala: “In Kerala”, they tell me, “our children learn well also Malayalam language, not just Tamil. There is a higher level of education…”
The tribal unknown artist
One lady gets up and disappears. After a while she comes back with a huge briefcase. A young man’s case who has found a day work today, so he is not in the village. He wanted to meet us, but then they called him. “He is very talented, but finding a regular job is difficult. Most of the time he is just here in in the village and draws pictures. “, the women trll They open the case. Big drawings, small ones , painted with colors, in black and white, different scenarios and techniques. Women, children, landscapes. Some drawings reflect the rural life, others show how he imagines the modern world. “He never visited any arts school. No one told him how to do. Sometimes he has to wait as there is no money to pay the paper and the colors …”, explains a lady. “We want him to help and ask some shop owners on the road if they can sell the pictures. A hundred, two hundred rupees each ( 1-2 EUR). ” The women are proud of him.
When I ask if they do any painting, too, they laugh. “No, not at all. We are not talented enough. We wanted to learn much more on how to do nice things, jewelry, sewing, writing good texts … The only thing we can do are bags, out of plastics. If we could sell them, we could do more …”
They bring us a special desert, it reminds me of chocolate cream. Before we leave, they sing and show one of their dances they practice when they come together – under this tree.
If these people lived in another place of the world, if they got some opportunities to learn and some additional financial support …what would happen?
If this young unknown man got a single chance, would he become a famous artist in our world?