They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If a Dalit woman did the painting, it says much more.
Dalit art has grown as a form of protest and resistance.
It was created by a woman and talks of the triple dominance, prejudice, and oppression she experiences because of her poverty, gender, and caste.
Growing up as an underprivileged
Dulari Devi, who was born into the underprivileged Mallah group, began her life in great poverty. Her first encounter with Mithila painting occurred while working as a domestic helper at the home of an upper-class painter, and she never looked back.
Instead of imitating the ideas and motifs of the upper castes, Dulari Devi poured herself into her art, imbuing it with her caste identity.
One of her first sales was a painting of a fishing town, which represented her caste's - Mallahs were usually boatmen - occupation.
Dulari Devi's art attempts to monitor the interplay of meaning and power across religious, caste, gender, and political hierarchies.
So, when the entire country is focused on Dulari Devi, it's worth looking at how marginalized women in Bihar use art to tell their stories.
Early age marriage and its influence on her
She married when she was thirteen but returned to live with her family when she was eighteen, following the loss of her kid.
She received no official schooling and learned to sketch and depict in Madhubani while working as a domestic worker in the home of Madhubani artist Mahasundari Devi.
Dulari Devi was exposed to another artist, Karpoori Devi, who taught her Madhubani art and methods.
Art and politics
Dulari's work is inspired by the Madhubani art tradition (also known as Mithila painting), a folk art school that emerged in the Indian state of Bihar.
She works in both the 'Kachnhi' (line drawing) and 'Bharni' (colored) Madhubani techniques but prefers the latter.
Although the use of these genres has traditionally been restricted to people of distinct castes, critic Sunil Kumar has praised her work for its ability to traverse conventional artistic divides and inhabit both domains, calling it "immense talent."
Furthermore, her choice of subjects and description has been regarded as an example of women's rising assertion of empowerment.
More about dulari devi:
Dulari Devi had no understanding of what the Padma Shri award meant when famous Mithila painting artist Mahasundari Devi received it in 2011. She had inquired about it with Mahasundari Devi out of curiosity.
Dulari, a 55-year-old inhabitant of Raanti village in Bihar's Madhubani, had been working as a domestic helper at Mahasundari Devi's home.
Dulari Devi received the Padma Shri award for her contribution to Mithila painting, a traditional art style of Madhubani, Darbhanga, Samastipur, and other neighboring regions, around ten years later.
Her road from domestic assistance to Padma Shri has been turbulent.
Padma Shri Dulari Devi has been bestowed to as the "Warriors of Change."
Devi is one of the few Dalit women artists who have paved the way for Dalit art to evolve into a depiction of the important concerns of dominance, discrimination, and oppression.
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Author: Akash Rupam Ekka
Editor: Akash Rupam Ekka