Animation Workshop, daily update

Press Release: 20 September 2012  

A three week long Experimental Workshop has been taking place for the Post Graduate animation students at the National Institute of Design, on themes of Gond tribal art and culture. This initiative was organised by the UK based Adivasi Arts Trust (dedicated to preserving and promoting Indian tribal art and culture), in collaboration with the Institute, in Gujarat.

Three Pardhan Gond artists were invited for the first two weeks to help the students choose a story (from the Gond oral traditions) and create character designs for a short animation film. After Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam returned home to Bhopal, it has been up to the students to continue with pre-production, which is the critical planning stage of the animation film making process; with animation being such a time consuming process, meticulous planning is required so that only the necessary frames - and no surplus ones are created.

Manjoor Jhali, (the Story of the Peacock) will be a two dimensional cut-out animation film. This technique was chosen as the most suitable by the group, bearing in mind the complexity of the artwork, which has been done by the Gond artists in a style that they have developed for themselves over the past thirty years. The style consists of basic shapes that are brightly coloured and covered with intricate patterns, and every artist has his own signature style of patterning that should not be replicated by any other artist of the community. The animators are exploring ways of turning the character designs into cutout puppets, and the preferred method would be to have them painted on paper or acetate and assembled so that they remain tangible and can be manipulated frame by frame directly under the camera. Another method is also available – artwork is scanned, prepared for digital animation puppets and animated using software such as Flash or After Effects. This will provide more flexibility, but may sacrifice the charming handmade look that suits the artwork.

So what is the motivation for a project such as this that falls outside the domain of commercial applications for animation? In India animation is generally associated with advertising and computer games. For those that are ready to work within much tighter budget constraints, there are also options for communication spots and awareness campaigns for Government Departments, but the concept of using animation for cultural preservation is yet to catch on in India. This attempt at making a Gond animation film raises some further questions about this too – is it really cultural preservation, or could it better be described as cultural adaptation and revitalization?

The motivation for this particular endevour is experimental - for young Indian animators to see if a more authentically indigenous style of animation can be developed with reference to folk art forms and indigenous content. Other questions that still require answers are whether the students will be able to consolidate a team to work beyond the duration of the workshop and complete the production- So far this has been a difficult task- and whether both methods, the handmade and the digital can combine harmoniously in a single film.

For more information contact:
 Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator) 

Press Release: 19 September 2012 

The magic of Gond folktales replete with charming animal characters would seem to be perfect for converting into animation films, as a group of Post Graduate animation students at the National Institute of Design are finding out - but how to begin?

The group embarked on this venture over two weeks ago, inviting a small team of three Pardhan Gond painters, Venkat Rajendra and Dileep Shyam, to visit their institute. Adaptation of indigenous folktales for animation raises questions relating to whether it should be done at all and if so, by whom; the oral heritage obviously belongs to the tribal communities themselves, and they surely deserve to have a say in how their culture is represented through a medium which has now become associated with commercial profit. But commercial animation films are of one style – a style developed and perfected in Western animation studios and now mostly in the domain of corporations. Tribal animation is a new concept in India, and it should probably be kept at a local level - or at least ensuring that indigenous people can be involved in the adaptation process. Animation is a costly occupation involving computer technology, professional sound recordings and a lot of hard work to produce high quality single frames that come to life when played back at a continuous rate. Even though animation is reportedly a booming industry in India, few people outside the production pipeline know just how much work is involved in creating it. There is a myth that software will solve the issue – that pressing buttons or clicking a mouse will produce quicker results than old fashioned techniques of hand drawing and stop motion. But the danger is that computer generated animation can look synthetic and standardized - losing the handmade charm of tribal art. This is why the animation students have decided to experiment with cut out puppets made from templates they devised from the character designs done by the Pardhan Gond artists. The templates dissect the characters into separate parts, and now a suitable method for connecting those parts is being explored. The first option was to use metal rivets, but this limits movement and it creates a permanent fixture between the parts, where it may be more useful to be able to detach and reattach – for example, to replace wings in a cycle for flight for the bird characters in the film – as the story is about the creation of the peacock.

In the concluding days of the workshop preproduction is getting completed. Much more time is required to do all the animation before arriving at the final stage of post production. The team is being encouraged by the workshop coordinator, Ms. Tara Douglas, (Secretary of the Adivasi Arts Trust) to nurture self discipline and to take the plunge and decide who will be part of the animation team to complete the project.

Films that have been screened for inspiration for the group include Fox and Rabbit (1973), The Heron and The Crane (1974) and Tale Of Tales (1979), all by the Russian master of the cutout medium, Yuri Norstein.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)

Press Release: 18 September 2012 

Gond art and stories are providing inspiration for a short animation film at the National Institute of Design. Post Graduate students from the Animation Film Design course took the initiative to use the time slot allocated for experimental animation to delve into indigenous culture for content for animation. They invited a small team of three Pardhan Gond artists to come from Bhopal to guide them in their artistic and oral storytelling traditions, and the students are determined to remain faithful to the philosophy of the community in the film. During initial storytelling sessions, a story about the creation of the peacock was chosen for the film. Tribal stories generally impart a crucial message of wisdom, and this tale is no exception. The message of the story is as relevant today as ever – be contented with what you have.

The Pardhan Gonds were traditionally bardic priests who were supported by the larger Gond community as the keepers of their oral histories and mythologies. When support for this practice declined, they found themselves in dire conditions of poverty. Those that had land turned to subsistence farming, while others had to move to the city in search of whatever work they could find. It was a young man, Jangarh Singh Shyam that popularized the practice of depicting the folktales, songs and mythologies of the community through the visual medium, about thirty years ago. He went on to gain unprecedented fame and travelled abroad several times before his demise in 2001. The legacy he left behind was a new tradition that now provides a whole community with income and respect. But of course modern life has also taken its toll on the group: They now face rivalry amongst themselves and even their artwork is in danger of becoming market driven.

The young animators are concerned that this latest venture should not be considered as the next step in this direction. The adaptation of the story for the film aims to give it new interest for children, and in particular, those from the Pardhan Gond community. It is about celebrating the cultural richness of Indian minority communities, not commercializing them, and therefore the adaptation has to be done with sensitivity and in collaboration to maintain the simple wisdom and community spirit.

The Pardhan Gond artists need to have plenty of patience as their artwork, with its meticulous patterning, takes a long time to create. These days such pursuits are losing impetus in the desire for quick results and instant gratification. Even amongst the animation students few of them are ready to accept the huge amount of work and commitment that goes into animation film making. Softwares offer attractive potential for short cuts and bedazzlement with fancy preset effects, and this is affecting the standard of storytelling in animation films. The question with this project will be the one that keeps arising - how to find a balance between the artistic dedication of the past and yet gain much need financial support to make such projects sustainable.

The students are interested in exploring handmade techniques for this short film. Cut out animation will work best for the intricate painted artwork, and by making tangible two dimensional puppets from paper the texture and organic nature will be kept. The software are there as a backup - certain scenes will be helped by using computer technology, but the handmade look should be maintained and the philosophy of the story acting as a reminder, not only to the production team but to the future audience for the film too.

Manjoor Jhali, the short Gond animation film is likely to be completed in a few months time by the twelve animation students, and it will then be widely distributed as part of the Tales of the Tribes collection in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust. Other stories in the series are from Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator) 

Press Release: 17 September 2012 

Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam, three outstanding artists from the Pardhan Gond community of painters from Madhya Pradesh carry back interesting memories from their recent project at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Based in Bhopal, the artists were invited to the Institute for two weeks to help a group of Post Graduate animation students make an animation film. The workshop began with introductory storytelling sessions, and the mixed group decided to work on a popular Gond folk tale, Manjoor Jhali, or how the peacock was created. A simple story, it takes place at the beginning of a mythological history, when the great god Baradev decided to make the world, and it tells of how the cheeky Tithi Bird could not resist stealing the peacock’s stunning legs – exchanging them for his own shabby ones. The animated film version of this story ends with the Karma Dance, as all good Pardhan Gond stories should.

The three visiting artists were able to advise the animators about cultural details, the philosophy of the story, write and record narration for the film and design all the characters in their own unique style of art. They have been painting since they were children, starting out as apprentices to their uncle Jangarh Singh Shyam, who the pioneer in this artistic style.

Their designs have now been passed into the hands of the animators who have started preparing two dimensional cut out puppets which they can move using techniques of single frame capture with a digital camera. Promising to be a labour intensive task to create all the required frame by hand,(5000-7000 for a five minute film), a lot of careful planning is required with a storyboard and animatic and this is where teamwork helps: Bhumika is assembling the animatic by placing Rahul’s storyboard frames on a timeline using Adobe Premier Software and timed with the audio narration and musical tracks.”It is important for us to contribute as much as we can but still remaining true to the art form and not tampering much with it. This project generates sensitivity in us towards their rich narrative culture and helps us evolve as storytellers,” she explains. Elaborating further on the project, Jaimeen adds that “using their artworks to tell their folktales is a fairly new tradition. And to animate is to take it to another level. It is like the tradition is evolving in front of us. And that is exciting.”

The animators have also been watching some cut out animation films in the workshop for inspiration and technical ideas, including Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), by Yuri Norstein, How Death Came To Earth (1971) and Paradise (1984) by Ishu Patel and Les Trois Inventeurs (1980) by Michel Ocelot

Manjoor Jhali, the short Gond animation film is likely to be completed in a few months time by the twelve animation students, and it will then be widely distributed as part of the Tales of the Tribes collection in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)  

Press Release: 15 September 2012

Three Pardhan Gond artists have been guests at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad for the past two weeks. Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam were invited by the Animation Department to come and work with the post graduate animation students to adapt one of their favorite folktales for an animation film. They will be leaving and returning to Bhopal tomorrow, but during their stay they have designed all the characters for the short film Manjoor Jhali, the story of the creation of the peacock. All three of them often include peacocks in their exquisite artwork, but Rajendra, widely considered as an expert in depicting elaborate peacocks, volunteered to design the main character for the film. But it was not as simple as that – this peacock had to be visualized from several different views –side, front and back, so that he will be able to dance and turn around in the film. Dileep was assigned most of the other animal characters and the villain of the story, the stealthy Tithi Bird is also his creation; His career as an artist was sealed in 2008 when he won the prestigious Jangarh Singh Award in Madhya Pradesh.
As the coordinator of the Gond team, Venkat brings special management skills, and he is also competent in writing dialogues and translating songs from his own mother tongue, a local dialect similar to Chhattisgarhi, into Hindi and English.

The young animators have a lot to learn from this project. It is the first time they are being exposed to Gond art and culture, and they are also encouraged to think beyond their preconceived notions of animation, and to be experimental. They all share enthusiasm for the subject, but they are finding it difficult to understand what it takes to sustain a team. Teamwork is about volunteering, delegating, communicating and taking responsibility for the jobs that need to be done to move ahead with the animation film. When it is well organised, a team will reduce the workload on any single animator, and it will also make the venture fun – important for animation is a lot of hard work too.

Methods of Participatory Action Research are being implemented by the workshop coordinator, Ms. Tara Douglas.   Tara, from Britain, also has a foot in the culture of India where she was born and has lived for over 15 years now. For her, this workshop is an experiment of a different type: She is trying to develop a methodology for tribal animation film production in India to preserve and promote oral traditions that are now threatened by commercial mass entertainment. As part of the documentation process, she is ensuring that interviews are recorded from the project participants.

 Tara will be staying on at the Institute for a further week to concentrate on technicalities with the animators – the completion of the animatic, animation tests and production management. The short film is likely to be completed in a few months time by the twelve animation students, and it will be widely distributed as part of the Tales of the Tribes collection in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)

Press Release: 14 September 2012
A Gond folktale, Manjoor Jhali (The Story of the Peacock) is taking shape as a short animation film at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. The project is being developed by a team of ten upcoming animators from the post graduate animation course in collaboration with three award winning Pardhan Gond artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam: They all feel that not enough is known about the rich cultural heritage of the Pardhan Gonds and that traditional Indian folktales would make good animation films.

But how is it to be done? This production is a pioneering project; a collaboration of this type might bring a high technical standard of movement and sound to the beautiful artwork which comes from the heritage of the artists. The artists are unfamiliar with the artwork requirements for animation, and they are now learning how their characters have to be broken down into separate parts to be reassembled as two dimensional puppets that can be moved and animated frame by frame under the camera. The students have to maintain vigilance about keeping true to the artwork - thus avoiding accepted conventions of animation including exaggerated ‘squash and stretch’, special effects and three dimensional camera moves. Creative decisions are taken with caution, and always in consultation with the artists. Three language versions are initially planned for the film – a version in the local dialect from Mandla District, Madhya Pradesh is required for screenings for Pardhan Gond children, Hindi for regional screenings and English for international festivals. Audio recordings have been made in the professional studio at NID today for the film, with Venkat providing narration in his mother tongue.    The team have two major considerations to deal with - how the film can be made successfully in a way that has appeal for a wide audience accustomed to conventional narrative structure supported by film language, and yet maintaining sensitivity to the sentiment and philosophy of the Pardhan Gonds, an ancient community known as the keepers of the oral histories of the larger Gond tribe. The workshop co-coordinator, Tara Douglas (British animator and Secretary of the UK based Adivasi Arts Trust) is documenting the process  and will be evaluating it as a methodology for making more such films in India, where animation production is almost completely dominated by the commercial industry.

Manjoor Jhali is the first film in a collection called Tales of the Tribes that will consist of five animated folktales. All the rest are from the Northeast region of India, and there is an explanation for this: The project takes off from an earlier initiative, The Tallest Story Competition (2006), a programme that presented the first Gond animation film (produced by West Highland Animation in Scotland) that had been hugely popular at screenings, giving the artists the idea that animation might be a way of preserving their oral traditions for the young generation. In the earlier programme, it had not been possible to include any stories from the Northeast region; since then, research has uncovered many wonderful stories from the tribes of Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. It is hoped that Tales of the Tribes will be ready by the end of 2013 for screenings in schools, cultural centres, universities, film festivals and online. It will also be available for broadcast.

Having now finished a storyboard for Manjoor Jhali, the next stage is to make an animatic that places the storyboard frames on a timeline and may also include some key animation: The rest will have to be slotted in as it gets done – and production is likely to continue for several months beyond the conclusion of the workshop. 

The students are also planning a visit to Bhopal in November, as they would like to continue their research and collaboration with their new Gond  friends and their families. 

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)  

Press Release: 13 September 2012 

Students of Animation at the National Institute of Design are working out how to bring tribal art from Central India to life through animation. They have chosen Gond art to work with and they are collaborating with a small team of three Pardhan Gond artists from Bhopal for this project that will result in a five minute long animated Gond folktale, which will be a part of a larger half hour long series, Tales of the Tribes, in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust.

The team of ten post graduate students agree that the target audience for the film will be children up to the age of 15, and that it will be particularly significant for the Gond community, for the preservation of their culture for future generations. It is the first time most of them have been exposed to Adivasi culture from Central India and now, having interacted with the artists for two weeks, they feel that they would like to visit and stay in a Pardhan Gond village to really understand more about the culture, way of life and philosophy of the community. While there are some resources available for research in libraries and online, they feel they would connect at a deeper level if they could see how they live and meet their families.

At present the artists Rajendra and Dileep are busy designing characters for the film, while Venkat has been translating songs recorded last week from recitals by a traditional Bana player, Narayandeen Tekam. He has also been writing some lyrics of his own to explain how the peacock was created from seven special ingredients from nature. As the artists are returning to Bhopal at the weekend, it has become important to make the audio recording of the song before then; Three language versions of the short film are planned – in the regional dialect for the Pardhan Gond audience, in Hindi for national distribution, and in EngIish for international screenings.

It has been suggested by Rahul Laishram, (from Manipur) that the Gond artists themselves could get involved in the animation process, though for this more time is required. Rajendra has tried out cut-out animation in previous workshops and recently he has experimented with time lapse animation of his painting. As he wants to stay in touch with the team of young animators, he has also been brushing up on his computer skills to be able to communicate via email. Following on from several storyboard discussion sessions, Rahul has been nominated to draw the fair version of the storyboard, which will show the visual plan of the short film. This will be evaluated by the team again so that further details can be added to bring the film to the desired length of five minutes, and to delight children with charming characterization and amusing gags. There are two main characters in the story – the Tithi Bird is the initial protagonist - a sneaky, nimble one, he contrasts the stately, proud, vain peacock, who takes over the storyline in the second half of the film.

All the final artwork is being created by the Gond artists, with directions from the animators who have requirements for different types of views to tell the story. Most of the artwork will have been created by the time the artist leave, and additional work will be sent to the students from Bhopal. The whole team is very excited about this project that has beautiful artwork, an original story and a wholesome message with special relevance today: Be satisfied within yourself!
For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)   

Press Release: 12 September 2012 

“Johar!” says Nausheen, arriving at the animation workshop. She has learnt that this is the typical greeting amongst the Pardhan Gonds of Madhya Pradesh. She and ten other post graduate animation students at the National Institute of Design are collaborating with three Pardhan Gond artists to make a short animation film of one of their folktales, Manjoor Jhali, the story of the peacock.

It is challenging work to mobilize a team of ten people to make an animation film, as the students are finding out; everyone has a different opinion on how the film should be done. Unable to agree on certain decisions, the group has gathered for advice from their teacher, Sekhar Mukherjee. Sekhar feels that it is important for them to make the most of this opportunity to work together, as ‘auteur’ animation film making is often a lonely existence. The benefits of a team is not only that there are more hands to complete the labour intensive work, but also the motivation and satisfaction that comes with successful teamwork in the creative environment. When working in isolation, there is also a real tendency to get stuck and to lose perspective where it is critical to keep reverting to the larger picture and the main message of the story.

It is also important to research and understand the subject matter when handling a cultural animation project, as this will help ensure that adaptation is done with sensitivity. As the animation process will take many months to complete beyond the duration of the workshop, a real passion and interest needs to be developed by the team to give them the stamina to see the project to completion. Resources for research include the internet, the library and of course ongoing interaction with the artists even after the workshop concludes. To help with this, the Gond artists are becoming familiarized with the internet and sending emails, as they know that there will be more artwork required from them as the film production unfolds.

As the workshop progresses, the students are volunteering their skills for the tasks required in accordance with their strengths: While some of them prefer storyboarding, others are more eager to experiment right away with animation techniques and others find the interaction and research with the artists most fascinating.

The Institute is also hosting an exhibition of paintings in the Aquarium by the three Gond artists, and this has now been extended until 7.00pm on 13 September.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)    

Press Release: 11 September 2012

Animators at the National Institute of Design are learning about Gond art and storytelling through a project to make a short animation film of one of the most popular Gond folktales, Manjoor Jhali, the creation of the peacock. This falls into their allocated slot for experimental animation in the Post Graduate Course; They are collaborating for this project with a small group of Pardhan Gond artists that are visiting the Institute from Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh. Originally from Mandla District in the remote eastern part of the state, the three artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam moved to Bhopal years ago to make a living as artists as there was no such scope in the village. They have already had some exposure to the animation process through a Scottish animation production, The Tallest Story Competition (2006) in which one of the stories in the collection of five animated tribal tales was from their culture; That film, Best of the Best, turned out to be hugely popular with children at the many screening events that followed, and this is when the artists realized that animation is a good technique to explore further for the preservation of their oral traditions; these days children are enthralled with animation, favoring it above traditional storytelling.

The artwork that has been developed by a close knit community of Pardhan Gonds is incredibly intricate and everything depicted has meaning and is a part of the larger concept that they are communicating. It is proving to be difficult to decide how best to adapt the art for animation and the technique of designing cutout puppets seems to be best suited. For this, the characters are dissected into parts, painted separately and then reassembled, and are now able to accommodate movement.

The visit to NID, perhaps the best institute in India for Animation Film Design, is a new and exciting experience for the three artists. They are getting hands on experience in animation, and they are also learning the basics of computers so as to be able to communicate with the animators after the workshop ends, as the animation production will go on for much longer and there will be additional requirements for artwork, which can be done back in Bhopal and sent across to the animation team. The artists have also seen high tech three dimensional puppets made by Rana Pratap Sen, who has specialized in stop motion animation for his final graduation film, and they are watching cut out animation made by dedicated masters such as Michel Ocelot and Ishu Patel.

The Institute is also hosting an exhibition of paintings by the three Gond artists, open daily from 11.00am-7.00pm in the Aquarium, until 12 September.

For more information contact: 
Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)   

Press Release: 10 September 2012

Interest is building up in the Gond Animation Workshop currently taking place at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. A group of ten post graduate animation students are developing a folktale from the Gond culture of Central India for a short animation film, and to do this they are working with three Pardhan Gond artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam. All three artists are award winners and nephews of the seminal Jangarh Singh Shyam who pioneered the depiction of folktales, songs and myths using visual media; prior to his ‘discovery’ back in 1981 and the subsequent innovations that he brought to his traditions, the Pardhans were the keepers of the oral traditions.

The group of animators and artists have agreed on the story;
Manjoor Jhali, is the story of the creation of the peacock. According to the Gonds it is believed that Baradev created the world in seven days and he took the most effort with the Peacock. Just as this masterpiece of creation was ready, the cheeky Tithi Bird intervenes and steals the peacock’s grand legs, replacing them with his own spindly ones. The vain, proud peacock cannot accept his lot when he looks down and notices his ugly feet, but finally he realizes that he has to be satisfied with what he has. Bhumika, one of the post graduate animators explains, “Gond culture, like all other tribal culture professes the importance of being contented in life and this story conveys that message.” 
This is the first time the animators are collaborating with Adivasi tribal artists. Rahul who is from Manipur feels that where he comes from, tribal culture is getting strongly affected by industrialization and Christianity, to the extent that some are now using non-tribal names.

The team is presently engaged in scripting the story and they are also starting to visualize it as a storyboard - a sketched plan of scenes that will best convey the story. It will be a major challenge to work out how to adapt the story and what kind of techniques to use while still remaining true to the principles of the art style. Some of the students feel that the film should have a poetic style; the paintings depict the main characters and elements of the story against a clean white background and this makes them stand out; and the consensus is that special effects and three dimensional camera moves commonly seen in commercial animation should be avoided for this film to maintain its organic nature.

The Institute is also hosting an exhibition of paintings by the three Gond artists, open daily from 11.00am-7.00pm in the Aquarium, until 12 September. 

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)  

Press Release: 8 September 2012

Post graduate animation students have chosen Gond art as the theme for their experimental workshop this year at the National Institute of Design. Three Pardhan Gond artists have been invited by collaborating partner, the UK based Adivasi Arts Trust, and the team of young animators are deciding just how the elaborately painted characters can be brought to life, and which animation technique will work best for such complex artwork: Options include cut out animation, in which characters are dissected into movable parts that are then reconstructed as two dimensional animation puppets. These can either be animated directly under the camera or they can be scanned and animated using software. As everyone in the team wants to have a go, and as they are not all comfortable yet with the software, they are exploring the first option, which may also give a charming handmade look to the five minute film they are working on. In this age of excessive dependence on computer technology and the subsequent synthetic look, the handmade approach may be more appropriate to the subject matter as all Gond folktales originate in the village.

Pardhan Gond artist Rajendra Shyam has also been experimenting with time lapse animation of his painting and this may work in the first scene of the creation of the peacock, which is the story they have chosen for their film. It will be a challenge to achieve a balance of the benefits offered by computer technology and the natural style of their artwork. About eight young animators are committed to helping the Gond artists achieve their dream of producing a five minute animation film which will be a part of the Tales of the Tribes collection, in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust. This is the second animated folktale from the Gonds to be produced, and the first such initiative to be taken in India.

The group is also learning about cultural documentation. They had a visit from a traditional Pardhan Gond Bana fiddle player who explained the significance of the mystical instrument to the clan; the Bana represents their deity Baradev and there are myths that explain how it all came about. Narayandeen Tekam travelled all the way from eastern Madhya Pradesh, from his village on the banks of the Narmada river, and he has now returned with his own memories and impressions about the eager animators and their foray into his culture.

The Institute is also hosting an exhibition of paintings by the three Gond artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam. All three are aware of the basic processes of animation, and they have also tried it out for themselves, but it is quite a new set of skills that are required to bring their artwork into the dynamic audio visual medium. They are receiving support from Bryan Guinness Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom for their involvement in the project.

The painting exhibition will  open daily from 11.00am-7.00pm in the Aquarium on the NID campus, until 12 September.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator) 

Press Release: 7 September 2012

An Exhibition of Pardhan Gond paintings opened today at the Aquarium, on the campus of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. The exhibition is being hosted by the Animation Department to celebrate the work of three visiting Pardhan Gond artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam. The young animators received assistance in setting up the displays from students of Exhibition Design, and at 5.00pm the show was inaugurated by the Director of the Institute, Shri Pradyumna Vyas, IAS. The opening was well attended by students and visitors.

After brief speeches by Tara Douglas  (Adivasi Arts Trust, a collaborator for this project) , Shri Pradyumna Vyas and Sekhar Mukherjee (Head of Animation, NID), Shri Narayandeen Tekam gave a recital on the sacred Bana fiddle. The Bana is a representation of the Gond deity, Baradev, and only a Pardhan is permitted to play it – even the very making of the Bana involves complex rituals. Narayandeen is visiting the Institute for just two days; He has come all the way from Patangarh in remote eastern Madhya Pradesh, and his music will feature in the audio track of an animation film, as the students are planning to bring a Gond folktale to life through the  animation medium. The story they have chosen Manjoor Jhali tells of the creation of the peacock according to their mythology. The Gond artists will be creating the artwork for the film, and they are providing inputs on story adaptation, but the film is likely to take several months beyond the duration of the workshop to complete, as animation is a meticulous, time consuming process, which is explains the importance of strong team. It is the first time that the animation students are receiving exposure to Gond culture and they are naturally in awe of the wonderful, highly original artwork they have seen from their Gond partners in the project.

The painting exhibition will be open daily from 11.00am-7.00pm in the Aquarium, until 12 September.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)

Press Release: 6 September 2012

The Pardhan Gonds would recite genealogies, histories and myths of the Gond tribe, the second largest Adivasi community in India, stretching from Madhya Pradesh to Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Maharashtra. Only the Pardhans who were permitted to play the Bana fiddle that represents their deity, the great Baradev; Baradev was responsible for creating the world, as the post graduate animation students of the National Institute of Design are finding out in a three week long Gond Animation Workshop. They have assembled a team that includes three visiting guest artists from the Pardhan Gond community. Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam have been invited by the Adivasi Arts Trust and they are working with the students to adapt one of their favorite folk tales for a short animation film. The story they have chosen is about the creation of the peacock, and it so happens that there is a high likelihood of seeing a peacock dancing in the monsoon on the verdant campus. 

The students are also organising an exhibition of paintings by the artists to open tomorrow, Friday 7 September at 5.00pm at the Aquarium at the National Institute of Design in Paldi, Ahmedabad. The exhibition will be inaugurated by the Director, Shri Pradyumna Vyas, followed by a Bana recital by Shri Narayandeen Tekam from Patangarh, Mandla District, Madhya Pradesh.
From simple ‘digna’ designs done on the floors and walls of huts in the village to sophisticated storytelling paintings, this collection of paintings was selected by the late Nik Douglas (1944-2012). Nik was a collector of fine art and antiquities from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas. He organised and curated a major exhibition at Tibet House in New York entitled Out of Uddiyana in 2010 and was planning an exhibition for November 2012 in London, entitled Treasures from the Silk Route. He had an amazing memory and rejoiced in bringing together related objects and building art collections which told a cultural story. He has been a consultant and agent for museums, galleries and private collectors around the world.

Nik met Venkat and Rajendra in London in 2009 and he had planned to organise an exhibition of their paintings at the Botanical Gardens in Nevis, West Indies.

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)

Press Release: 5 September 2012

A group of Pardhan Gond artists from Central Madhya Pradesh are visiting the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, for two weeks.  They are here for an experimental animation workshop that will look at the possibilities of adapting their oral traditions for the animation medium.  Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam have been invited by the Adivasi Arts Trust, a partner in this project.  They have travelled from Bhopal, where they now live, and they have brought roles of their elaborate artworks for an exhibition that will be opening at the Aquarium Gallery on the NID campus at 5pm on Friday to coincide with the workshop. 

A team of Exhibition Design students are helping out with the exhibition and they are expecting a visit from Narayan Deen, a traditional Bana player, who is coming all the way from remote Patangarh village in eastern Madhya Pradesh for the inauguration event.  In the meantime students are interacting with the artists to gather as much information as they can about the cultural traditions of the Pardhan Gonds, so that they  understand their subject matter  before they begin the animation process.  The team, which is made up of artists and animators will be adapting a Gond folktale for a short animation film for children.  The Gond artists will be making all the character designs and artwork for the film, using a style that they have developed for themselves over the past years;  it is a very distinct style of attractive elaborate patterning used to depict deities and nature, and to illustrate folktales.
On the third day of the workshop they have chosen a story about a peacock and a lapwing bird.  It is a story that is well known to them and they have already shown in  their art, so it will be charming to witness this  new dynamic transformation and lease of life.  The first step of adapting the story is to build the film in ones imagination and then record it as a story board.  The story they have chosen, like most tribal stories concludes with a message to give deeper insight.  “Be satisfied with what you have, that is the motto”, says Venkat, “this is a very important message for us in the village.”

For more information contact: Tara Douglas (workshop coordinator)

Press Release: 4 September 2012

Animation students at the National Institute of Design are entering into a world seen through the eyes of the Pardhan Gond artists of Madhya Pradesh.  The Pardhan Gonds are an ancient Adivasi community that were once the important keepers of the oral traditions of the larger Gond tribe.  These songs and stories are fading into the mists of time, and to revive and preserve them for the generations to come, a group of Pardhans have started giving visual form to their myths and deities.  The artistic traditions of the Pardhans were never static and unchanging. Their paintings have come from the walls of their mud huts in the village to paper, canvas, pen and ink and acrylic paint. It now remains to be seen in the Animation Workshop how these highly detailed paintings adapt to the medium of animation.

There was  a foray into the audio visual medium a few years ago.  The Scottish based West Highland Animation produced the first short Gond animation film in 2006, but this is the first such initiative to be taken in India, and it indicates a growing awareness of Gond art, and the need to preserve and continue developing these traditions.   All three Pardhan artists, Venkat, Rajendra and Dileep Shyam, that have come to the workshop were also part of the team to create the artwork for the first film, and they are now interested in making a new film for the Tales of the Tribes animation series in production by the Adivasi Arts Trust.  They are members of the Trust and they will get help from the Trust for distributing the film through its network of schools, institutions and cultural centres. 

Stories are being recorded from the artists.  One has to be chosen for the film – will it be the story of the how the Tiger taught the Fox how to hunt?  Tribal stories generally end with a satisfying moral because it was through these tales that wisdom was passed on.  The artists have also brought a collection of their paintings as they are intending to have an exhibition at the Institute, opening on Friday.  They are getting assistance for this from an eager group of under graduate Exhibition Designers, who are working out the best way of displaying the stunning artwork.  The exhibition will give a glimpse into the transformation from simple, traditional ‘dignas’ to the complex paintings of mythological themes that have become their own unique form of expression.  

Press Release: 3 September 2012

A three week long Gond Animation Workshop has started today at the National Institute of Design, in Paldi, Ahmedabad. 
A group of Post Graduate animation students from the Institute have decided to use the time ahead to explore the rich cultural heritage of the Gonds using animation, and within the framework of a traditional folktale.  Three Pardhan Gond artists have been invited by the Adivasi Arts Trust, a UK based organisation that is partnering this project.  The Trust was set up in 2007 to preserve and promote Indian indigenous art and culture through digital media.   It is Rajendra and Dileep’s first visit to the Institute, and they arrived this morning with roles of their masterpieces under their arm.  They also have a mission – both of them have children of their own and they want to preserve their traditions for the young generation.  Faced with immense rapid change, they have brought their oral storytelling tradition into the visual medium to create elaborate paintings that give form to their myths and deities.  They will be joined by Venkat tomorrow and the three of them will be interacting with the animation students to choose one of their folktales to adapt for a short animation film, for the upcoming Tales of the Tribes collection of animated tribal stories. 

Sekhar Mukherjee, Head of Animation at the Institute explained that National Institute of Design was known for the attention given to documenting storytelling through craft.  For this workshop he iterated that the Pardhan Gond artists would be producing the artwork for the film and that the job of the animators was to study their artistic processes and help them to transfer it to the animation medium.  Gond stories have already been shown to work well in animation; the first Gond animation film, the Best of the Best went on to gain wide appeal in schools in Central India in 2007.  Sekhar urged the students to find the best approach to animating the artwork, to consider perspectives, views and movement that will suit the subject.  He also mentioned the ethics of the project, pointing out that this is the work of the Pardhan Gond ancestors and therefore it belonged to them.  It will take longer than the duration of the workshop to complete the short film.  Animation is intricate time consuming work and it becomes expensive to produce as each frame is created by hand and the artwork requirements are huge.  Confidence needs to be built for such projects in India, although film projects that give a voice to indigenous people are getting supported in countries like Australia and Canada. 

The group will also be curating an exhibition of Gond art in at the Institute, to open in Friday 7 September, to raise awareness and celebrate the magnificent art of their Pardhan Gond visitors. 

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