New Publication | Painters, Poets, Performers: The Patuas of Bengal | Pick up your copy now!

Greetings from India Foundation for the Arts!

We are delighted to announce the publication, Painters, Poets, Performers: The Patuas of Bengal by Ritu Sethi, on the history and evolution of 'Patachitra' (literally, 'painting on cloth or scrolls'). This visually rich and informative book provides an overview of the narrative tradition of pictorial storytelling and its talented, polymath makers.

What sets the book apart from others in the field is its examination of a landscape that has stretched over time and space, connecting the traditional to the changing language of contemporary practice. Where many similar traditions have quietly vanished or are endangered, the ways in which the Patuas have mediated with modernity adds to the critical debate on the positioning of these traditional arts within the context of the contemporary art scene. In this book, the need to develop a canon for the traditional-modern, situating it within its context, is viewed from multiple points. The insights on this increasingly complex theatre of operation are a must-read for all those interested in visual and performative arts and cultures, and their future in this digital age.

This book is supported by Infosys Foundation.

Please click here to pick up a copy of the book for Rs 500/- (exclusive of domestic courier charges) now!

I first encountered Patachitra, a specific type of scroll painting usually done on cloth, in the states of West Bengal and Odisha, and it propelled me to wonder about the number of art forms that we have already lost along the way due to the lack of documentation. The thought encouraged Infosys Foundation and India Foundation for the Arts to collaborate on the journey of this wonderful and informative book that we hope will exist long after we are gone.

Sudha Murty, Chairperson | Infosys Foundation, Bangalore

At India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), we have supported a couple of grants that look at reimagining and reviving some of these performative traditions with the children of the Patachitra artists. To me, the most fascinating aspect of this art form is how the Patachitra artists have continuously reshaped its content and practice with their keen sense of the contemporary temperament and the changing world around them.

They have been resilient and sharp about the shifts in their environment and negotiated for a critical space for themselves in the field. This, today, is truly an art form that stands in the interstices of the traditional and the contemporary; of art and craft—questioning the very definitions of these terms and their classifications as used in art history.

Arundhati Ghosh, Executive Director | India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore

At all times during our inquiry, as the scroll slowly unfurled, we were constantly reminded of the immense creativity of the Patuas (artisan community) who have carried the thread of pictorial-storytelling from ancient times to the present day. As we delved further, what continued to astonish was not just their depth of knowledge and their instinctual interpretation of myths and of lore; of stories and of events far and near—but their fluidity in adapting their performance to their widely differing audiences.

I hope this IFA publication will shine light on their lives and work, and the difficult circumstance in which they continue their creative struggle. To the many creative avatars of the Patachitra, Patuas as artists, poets, makers, storytellers and performers, I offer my Salaam and Namaste.

Ritu Sethi, Chairperson | Craft Revival Trust, New Delhi

This book is the second publication from IFA on the arts and crafts of India, supported by Infosys Foundation. The first publication was on Kantha embroidery, Embroidering Futures - Repurposing the Kantha, edited by Ritu Sethi, now available to read here for free!