From almost a non-existent village comes a child who doesn’t have anything but an unusual talent in the form of art that was on the verge of going extinct. Not only did the child grow, along with him grew a community which was backward but, with more than a thousand-year-old history of the Warli art form. If being creative in the time of adversity is art then, Jivya Soma Mashe is the artist. He revived the ritualistic Warli Art form that was limited to only special occasions and made it a regular form of expression by bringing consistency and innovation.
“Today’s Accomplishments Were Yesterday’s Impossibilities.” – Robert H. Schuller
Jivya was born in the Dhamangaon village in Maharashtra’s Thane district, which had a historical background of painting tradition. At the age of seven, when usually children are busy playing outdoors, he was exposed to a tragic situation. The most important person of his life, his mother, left him for the heavens, and the child didn’t know how to recover. An anguished and traumatized Jivya went silent, he didn’t utter a single word, for years and stopped talking to anyone. After several years passed, when the pain got reduced with time, the young man found a new way to communicate with people by drawing on the dust. Yes! He started drawing pictures on the ground to express himself, to the people around, unaware of the fact that this form of expression would do wonders for his life.
“A Clear Vision, Backed By Definite Plans, Gives You A Tremendous Feeling Of Confidence And Personal Power.” – Brian Tracy
Discovery of Artist
While Jivya continued to interact in the same way, his unique skills were first appreciated, without a doubt, by local people and then one day noticed by Bhaskar Kulkarni, a crafts board’s field worker. Kulkarni went ahead to explore more of Jivya’s work and was surprised and amused at the same time when he saw some of his paintings. The drawing skills, innovative ideas, and marvelous artistic abilities astonished Kulkarni, who couldn’t do anything but think of ways to promote this young talent. He decided that Jivya should be given the right training so that he could become a Warli artist, and therefore, Kulkarni started coaching him on his own.
Outlining the Emotions
The Warli art, in its traditional form, was practiced only by women who used to draw the painting on walls coated with cow dung, mud, and Gerua with the help of powdered rice paste. With time, it became difficult to sustain the art form due to the changing socio-economic scenario, and it remained limited to only a few places in Warli. This was when Kulkarni realized the scope of someone as young as Jivya learning the art and taking the legacy forward. He trained him to the best of his ability, but it was the disciple’s determination and in-built skills that helped him shine like a star. It wasn’t only about learning and drawing; it was also about reviving the art form and bringing it to the forefront.
"Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value."-Albert Einstein
Sweat to Success
Mashe knew that there has to be some uniqueness about his work because the conservative version might not survive for long. He wanted to add a touch of his own, so he started painting on canvas and paper along with walls infusing his creativity and unique sense of imagination to plot some of the best scenes with his hands. No longer was the art limited to special occasions, Jivya made it a regular thing by drawing whenever he felt like and expressing his thoughts to the fullest thereby, freeing the art of its ritualistic boundaries and traditional outlooks. He realized the commercial potential of the art and decided to proceed with the idea of drawing for the same purpose.
The most important break for Jivya came in 1975 when Kulkarni managed to get his work shown at the Chemould Gallery, where his paintings were widely appreciated. His spirits were lifted and got a huge motivational boost after the show. The art that was anciently used just for decoration was now transformed into a form of expression that included Jivya’s deep sense of storytelling and spreading social messages. He used to promote tribal culture through his paintings. Moreover, he innovatively beautified the use of lines, dots, strokes, circles, triangles, and squares to neatly render themes that were relatable to the audience. He was aware of the kind of depiction people always looked for and had identified the taste of his audience quite beautifully.
Taking Art to Skies
Mashe was loved by all since he was able to depict what the tribal people went through, and how hard the circle of life was, for them. He has the mind-blowing ability to connect with people and understand their pain as if it was his grief. Later, his son also joined him in spreading the art further and replicated the model prepared by Jivya. Even after touching the skies of success, he stuck to the ground and imbibed the values of life in his art.
Mashe went to countries like Canada and Japan and globalized an art form that once seemed to have no future. He received many awards for his talent, including the Shilp Guru in 2002 and the Padma Shri in 2011. Due to his consistent efforts, the Warli art now has a huge following and is not limited just to the canvas but has also found a place on mugs, t-shirts, sarees, etc. The magnificent torch bearer died in 2018 due to prolonged illness, at the age of 84, leaving behind a legacy that is hard but not impossible to carry forward.
"The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one's destiny to do, and then do it." --Henry Ford
Rising above a complicated childhood, Jivya Soma Mashe put immense efforts in mastering an art that was already present in him by birth. He took up the Warli art form when it was almost dead and popularised it to an unimaginable extent. Representing the tribal culture, he successfully promoted the art not only in India but also abroad. From losing his mother at the age of seven and going silent afterward to being an ambassador of the Warli art form, he indeed had a sensational life.