Folk Art Paintings
Folk art on cloth-Phad Painting
Folk art paintings are an artist's expressions in pictorial form and usually choose epic narratives from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and so on. These also depict the daily village life, social customs, rituals, birds, animals and the elements of nature and earth. Folk paintings use very vibrant and natural colours and papers, clothes, leaves, earthen pots, mud walls, etc are used as canvas.
The Indian folk paintings, their styles and patterns are as diverse as the Indian nation itself. The Indian folk art list includes wall paintings, calendar paintings, oil classics, cave paintings, miniatures etc Our site is the unique online destination where all the art lovers can browse every kind of Indian Folk paintings and Indian folk art.
Indian folk art prints include the various art forms of India that have been practiced since ancient times. Phad paintings, warli paintings, madhubani paintings, patachitra, tanjore work, kalamkari, pata paintings, pithora, etc are some of the famous folk art paintings in the country.
Folk art prints include such pictorial depictions as the Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. There are madhubani paintings of the sun, the moon and religious plants like tulsi are widely painted as also royal courts and social events like weddings.
Tanjore art in the south has brightly colored art prints such as Siva, Parvati, Rama, Krishna, Lakshmi, Saraswathi and other gods and goddesses in different forms. While events from the mythologies such as the coronation of Ram is a typical Tanjore style of painting there are other animal and human figurines like man and woman, animals, etc depicted on these paintings also.
In Phad painting, the art prints of heroes in history such as Goga Chauhan, Prithaviraj Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathor, Tejaji, and others are common. In contemporary times, the stories from the life of Papuji and Narayandevji are mainly depicted.
The Warli paintings of Maharashtra have some common folk art prints of marriage god, Palghat, his horse along with the bride and groom. These paintings are special as they depict marriage ceremonies. Another popular theme of this form of folk art is the dance that men and women perform in circles and spirals around a musician.
The Pata Chitra paintings have paintings that are inspired by the Bhakti movement. The various folk art prints depict the story of Radha-Krishna and Jagannath in bold colours. Today, they are also used in the decoration of ganjifa playing cards, masks and toys.
Folk art designs are diverse in India and reflect our rich cultural heritage. The other forms of folk art paintings include Rajasthani Painting, Pahari painting, Jain art at Gujrat, Warli paintings of Maharastra, Thakga, Monpa , etc which are equally fascinating and charming.
Indian folk paintings are a true example on an artistic expression that can hold perfect spot in your home or office. So go ahead and take a plunge into the magical world of Indian Art.
Folk Arts of Rajasthan
Promoting dignity and respect for all...
Folk Arts Rajasthan (FAR), based in the United States, partners with Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan (LKSS) a community folk arts society based in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan India. Together our US based Non-Profit and LKSS, the Indian Non-Governmental Organization, are committed to eradicating illiteracy, fostering community development, and celebrating cultural understanding through preservation of the Merasi traditional artistic legacy.
In their remote desert region of Jaisalmer District, members of LKSS are born being called Manganiyar. From birth, they are considered untouchable beggars and will bear this social stigmatism their entire lives. Daily harassment and intense marginalization remove all opportunity. The Merasi, as they have chosen to call themselves, have held the role of oral genealogists, storytellers, and musicians for upper caste communities in the same geographic area for more than 37 generations.
Today the Merasi artistic tradition is their gift to the world.
These folk art paintings are painted on household walls by the women of the Madhubani village in Bihar, India. They paint figures from nature and mythology to mark the seasonal festivals, and for special events such as marriages. The technique of painting a Madhubani is zealously guarded by the women in the family, and passed on from mothers to their daughters. Though the women of this small village in Bihar have been painting for centuries, their work was only recognized in the 1960s, when a drought hit the area. Then, people had to think of an alternative non-agricultural way of earning money. They began to sell their paintings.
In the 12fth century, the Ganga kings commissioned a group of painters who used to throng the lanes of Puri in Orissa, India, to popularize the cult of the Jagannath Temple. These were the Pata painters.
The themes of this form of folk art painting were inspired by the Bhakti Movement (a religious movement of the times). The paintings depicted the tales of Radha-Krishna and Jagannath, in bold colors. Pata paintings also found their way into decoration of Ganjifa playing cards, masks and toys.
These folk art paintings of the tribes of Rathwa, Bhilals and Nayka of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, are a fine example of Indian wall painting . They convey the joy and celebration of the community, and are more of a ritual than a painting form. When a family problem occurs, the head priest or Badwa is summoned. He offers solutions which often involve painting Pithoras on the walls of the house. The custom is to paint the first wall of the house and the two walls around it.
The colors are made by mixing pigments with milk and liquor of the Mahuda tree. First the walls are plastered with mud and cow-dung. Then they are coated with chalk powder. This process is called lipna . Thereafter, the painting is done.
The small town of Nirmal in Andhra Pradesh, India, is famous for its wooden works and glazed paintings. These folk art paintings are painted using oil paints. They are characterized by bold colors and their themes are generally from the epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
These folk art paintings of the Warli tribes of Maharashtra depict their way of life in a lively manner. These tribes adorn the walls of their home with these paintings, during the harvest season, and during wedding and birth celebrations.
The patterns of a Warli painting are usually circular or spiral. This indicates the circle of life. The color scheme is very restricted, however. It is limited to stark white against earthen colored backgrounds. Geometric designs dominate. The painting units are dots and crooked lines. The typical themes are those of marriage. These depict the marriage god, Palghat, his horse and the bride and groom. These paintings are sacred to marriage ceremonies. Another popular theme of this form of folk art is that of men and women dancing in circles and spirals around a musician.
The folk art painting called a phad, originates in Rajasthan, India. The smaller version of phad is known as phadakye. It is a cloth painting which venerates the deeds of a hero such as Goga Chauhan, Prithaviraj Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathor, Tejaji, and others. Today, the stories from the life of Papu ji , and Narayandev ji are primarily depicted.
The painting of a phad is a ritual of sorts. It commences with offerings to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and art. Thereafter, a rough draft of the sketch is made on the khadi cloth, and the figures are perfected. The empty spaces are then covered with flora and fauna. All figures are colored yellow initially and this base is called kachcha . Then the youngest virgin girl of the artist's family or a family of a higher caste is called upon to make the first stroke. This ritual is followed by celebrations and distribution of sweets. Only one color can be used at a time and specific colors are used for different things- orange for limbs and torso, yellow for ornaments, clothing and designs, gray for structure, blue for water and curtains, green for trees and vegetation and red, prominently for dress. All these are outlined with bold black strokes, which give definition to these forms. As is now apparent, the colors are used in a fixed order, starting from orange-yellow to brown, green, red, and finally black.
The phad painting is celebrated for its bold colors. These colors are usually vegetable dyes. However, threatened by the scarcity of these natural colors, artists have started making waterproof earthen colors by pounding them with gum, water and indigo.
A traditional phad runs the length of thirty feet, and is five feet wide.
Sculptures : Brass l Marble l Wood l Buddhist l Puja Accessories
Paintings : Madhubani l Bengal Folk Art l Mughal l Kalamkari l Paata l Batik
Posters & Reprints : Hindu l People l Nature l Fine Art l Bollywood l Large Posters l Hindu Stickers
Postcards : Hindu
Audio & Video CD's : Meditation l Krishna l Ganesha
Apparels : Shawls and Stoles l Long Skirts l Ladies Tops l Woolen Caps l Bindis/ Body Dots
Sarees : Amisha Silks l Manya Silks l Divya Collection l Wedding Collection
Jewellery : Pendants l Bracelets l Lacquer Bracelets l Wooden Bracelets
Home Decor : Single Bedcovers l Double Bedcovers l Cushion Covers l Door Garlands
Tamil folk culture
Tamil folk artists presenting a Villuppattu near Tirunelveli during a festival (panguni uththiram) at an Ayyanar temple.
Tamil folk culture refers to folk arts and crafts of the Tamil people. Folk arts and crafts are an integral part of the Tamil culture. Tamil folk arts include dance styles, songs, games, crafts, herbal medicine, food, sculpture, costumes, stories, proverbs, and mythology.
Tamil folk art is characterized by its local, participatory, and open source character. Tamil folk culture often expresses village sensibilities, where most Tamils historically lived. It is often contrasted with Bharatanatyam, and Carnatic music, which are consider high culture.
Island of Salvation Botanica, Piety Street, Bywater neighborhood, New Orleans
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.
As a phenomenon that can chronicle a move towards civilization yet rapidly diminish with modernity, industrialization, or outside influence, the nature of folk art is specific to its particular culture. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated.
Antique folk art
Antique the folk art is distinguished from traditional art in that while it is collected today based mostly on its artistic merit; it was never intended as a category to be art for art’s sake. Examples include: weathervanes, old store signs and carved figures, itinerant portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast iron doorstops and many other similar lines of highly collectible "whimsical" antiques.
Characteristically folk art is not influenced by movements in academic or fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art excludes works executed by professional artists and sold as "high art" or "fine art" to the society's art patrons. On the other hand, many 18th and 19th century American folk art painters made their living by their work, including itinerant portrait painters, some of whom produced large bodies of work.
Other terms that overlap with folk art are naïve art, Pop art, outsider art, traditional art, tribal art, "self-taught" art and even "working class" art. As one might expect, all these terms have different connotations; but they are all at times used interchangeably with the term folk art, for which a satisfactory definition has proven hard to come by.
Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms. Folk art reflects traditional art forms of diverse community groups — ethnic, tribal, religious, occupational, geographical, age- or gender-based — who identify with each other and society at large. Folk artists traditionally learn skills and techniques through apprenticeships in informal community settings, though they may also be formally educated.
What is folk art?
Folk art is not art, as most people would think. You would not find it in the galleries of New York. You find it in people's homes, garages, and attics. The best way to describe folk art is to say it is the craftsmanship of people from a local area which depicts the everyday life and times they shared. From the weather vane on the barn to the handcrafted rag dolls the children played with, that is something you can not put a price on.
Traditional, high end art is produced by a talented painter or sculptor whose personality or life may be depicted in the piece. This was not created by a named artist but by ordinary people who needed certain things. These items were used everyday. They were created to make life simpler or more enjoyable. The people who created them would never have dreamed of selling them at some upscale auction house. The items were passed out to family and friends. There was no price tag.
Quilts are a popular form of folk art. The seamstress was making a bed cover for her family. If she was adept with her needle, there may have been detailed embroidery done on the piece or appliqué work depicting scenes from the area. Some of the quilts were made for special occasions such as the wedding quilt. The rings symbolized the union of the two getting married. These handcrafted quilts and blankets are in great demand in today's market.
The tradition of folk art continues to this day. People are still creating things to make their lives easier or more comfortable. Toys are created for the children. Some pieces are created for the sheer beauty of it, like wood carvings. Local craftsmen who are proud of their heritage are picking up the tradition and starting to teach the younger ones how to do things, like basket weaving or tin smithing.
There are festivals all across the country celebrating the heritage of different regions. Many local craftsmen set up displays to show off their handy work and creations. Some offer these items for sale to the visitors. Many of these festivals are held in the fall. This is traditionally when the lives of these true artisans would slow down. The planting and growing being over, this was the time when the harvest would start to be enjoyed. With more time on their hands many people would turn to their craft to past the time.
The American Folk Art Museum located in New York City has many exhibits from all over the country. There are paintings which depict the lives of the artists. There are many quilts on display. Some are of a simple design and others are intricately detailed. Visitors can view pottery and tin pieces made in the 18th and 19th century. Certain markings made on the pieces have allowed the artisan to be traced through the years. It is interesting to see the styles each master craftsman used to create their works. Toys and painted board games are on display to see what the children of the times played with.
Folk art is a reflection of the past history of America. It shows the history of this nation. Every piece is a part of the heritage of the United States.
The term is used to cover the stunningly diverse and exquisite fabric of art objects made my particular social sections all over the world. Their special art- forms are known only to those who are born and these social sections incorporated in their life-styles and on objects of their daily use.
Folk Art depicts numerous objects crafted by the traditional life style, culture and training of different social groups. These people do not go through any academic courses to train in their art. They simply use and implement traditional styles and techniques of their region and culture.
Their art is used to decorate, design and shape textiles, utensils, pottery, sculpture, painting, tools and various other items of daily use. Folk Art cannot be included in art which is created by professionals and marketed as fine art.
Indian folk artists are mostly self taught through family occupation and community. Their craftsmanship and skills are beautiful and varied. The rural arts form the centre of folk-creativity.
There has been growing patronization of folk-art through marketing opportunities and exposure all over the world in the last ten to fifteen years. It has lately come to be called ‘Grassroots Art’. The movement is gaining visibility and patronization all over the world via media tools like television.
FOLK ART of Orissa
Folk art is a higher form of culture in comparison to primitive art. The needs and peculiar problems of the village people's life find an expression in folk art. While satisfying the needs of the people, folk art attains a certain aesthetic level. Folk art is divided into two classes, Viz. hand-made figures and moulded figures. The hand-made type is of a primitive pattern. Heads, eyes, eye-brows, lips etc of the figures are shown, but the legs are left out. In the moulded type a full human or animal figure is fashioned.
Folk art although dwindling, is still a living reality in Orissa. Great skill is displayed in the making of dolls, toys, puppets, carvings on soapstone, wooden vessels, gate door ways, chests, palanquins, musical instruments, bridal costumes etc. Temple walls and walls of certain private houses are still painted. Drawing on canvas is still a practice in Orissa. Orissa's 'Patachitras' are famous in India and outside. Bowers of the pith flowers with figures of charming women are made on the occasion of 'Jhulana' (swinging festival of Radha and Krishna) on the full moon day of Shravana. Brass fishes, horn toys, filigree ornaments, a painted 'Farua' ( a temple-like wooden pot in which Vermilion is kept), textile and soapstone work and 'ganjapa' (traditional play card) of Orissa still draw wide attention. Palm leaf as a writing material is now out of use except on some ceremonial occasion. Some palm leaf manuscripts are carefully preserved in the museum at Bhubaneswar as specimens of traditional drawings and paintings.
Every woman in the village is more or less acquainted with 'Chita' (painting on wall and floor with rice paste). The floor is painted with the feet of the goddess Lakshmi and the mud walls are decorated with paddy plants, finger-tips, birds, lotus creepers etc on Thursdays in the month of Margashira. The south-facing doors are decorated with paddy plants, ornaments, lotuses, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and cotton clinging on the turmeric paste and worshipped on the occasion of the Sun moving southwards on the Samkranti day of the month of Shravana.
From specimens of art now available like the baked terracotta horses with a goddess under some big tree, the figure of the Puranic Brundabati bearing the basil (Tulsi) plant on the head, painted wooden cover of a palm leaf manuscript, cash boxes, utensils and pottery, we come to know how vividly art was integrated with ancient Orissan life.
Folk art is produced primarily for the artist's own use. It is not commercialized. Women do thread embroidery, and make fans out of grass roots. They make use of home-made articles. Folk art has its own individuality and character and it exists by its intrinsic merit, i.e. flight of fancy of the artist, its symmetrical form, rhythm of design and efficient workmanship. Materials used in folk art are local and not imported from outside.
In the Orient, there are three important lines of cultural formation. Those are Chinese culture, Indian culture and Oriental culture, classified according to its region and period. Same like this, the Oriental music also divided into Chinese music (China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia), Indian music (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia), Arabian music (Arab, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, North Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia). These 3 lines of music do not have a consistency and very different with each other in a musical tone, a scale, a mode, aesthetic valuations and so on. Each race in Asia has formed and improved its folk music by succeeding one of the three musical lines or mixing two of the lines. So the music of Asia is as vast and unique as the many cultures and peoples who inhabit the region.
Southeast Asia; Indo-china, Indonesia, the Malay Archipelago
In the Southeast Asia, the music of Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia is representative. Vietnamese music was much influenced by Chinese music. And Thailand music and Cambodian music have been developed into unique styles under the influences of cultures of China, India and Indonesia. In addition, there are so many folk arts of Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Borneo and lots of islands.
In a point of historical view, the music of Southeast Asia started its development with the spread of Indian music and Buddhism in the 6th century. In that age, this region already had its original instruments like a xylophone and a carillon. Since the 13th century, folk music of each country has actively developed.
Among the music of Southeast Asia, the followings are Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia.
Vietnamese music is based on Chinese music and have and importance on instrument from China as Chang(쟁), mandolin, 3-strings, Hogum(호궁), a flute. But Vietnamese music is distinguished from Chinese music and has a unique feeling because it uses Vietnamese language.
The music of Thailand is originated from operas which had been flourishing in the palaces in old Khmer culture of Cambodia. Since the 17th century, an ensemble of the strings which is a variety of Chinese instrument and a xylophone, a carillon which are from India has developed as an accompaniment of the opera. The most distinguishing characteristics of Thailand music are a sweet humming and seven musical scales which is pieces of one octave.
In Indonesia, music, dance, theatres are very flourishing. The concert ‘Gamelan’, which has developed in especially Java and Bali, is very famous all over the world. Gamelan of each region has both consistencies and differences. Gamelan of Java has gentle melody which is played by the strings but it of Bali is very wild and tough. Gamelan is an abnormal musical form in Asia because it uses chords. It is based on five scales which are different from five scales of the Western ‘Do, re, mi, pa, sol’ so it makes exotic moods. This Gamelan is usually used as an accompaniment in dance dramas, doll plays, masques, throwing-shadows, religious dances and etc.
Myanmar has taken its own style which is a mixture of Indian music and Thailand music. Myanmar has orchestral styles similar to Thailand and an unusual style of the chamber music. In Myanmar, a harp is the primary instrument in chamber music and Myanmar is the only country that has preserved a form of the past Indian harp. A delicate sonority is another characteristic of music of Myanmar.
In Northeast Asia, China has influenced to neighboring countries in many fields. Thus, each country’s folk music also has been affected by Chinese music. The past Chinese music was influenced by music of Iran, India, and Central Asia and developed into elegant. It spread all over the Northeast Asian countries like Korea, Japan and became global in the Tang dynasty. After the Tang, each country in Northeast Asia has developed its folk music in its own way but could not help being influenced by Chinese music. Among the music of Northeast Asia, the followings are China, Mongolia, Japan, and Korea.
The mainstream of Chinese folk music is the Han race even though minority races’ music are also including in Chinese music in modern classification. So the history of Chinese music is that, the history of Han race.
B.C. 1500 the period of Eun, some musical instruments appeared in religious ceremonies and the history of Chinese music started. China has believed in Confucianism since the past and Confucians thought much of arts and music. B.C. 2nd century to A.D. 2nd century, the period that Confucianism is national religion, Chinese folk music came to a head.
In the 6th century, lots of Indian musical instruments, musical pieces, and dances were introduced to China and it made Chinese court music prosperous. During the 10th century and 19th century, Han race much developed their own folk music and this period is called ‘Folk Art Age’. In this age, the mainstream of music was an opera and Beijing opera was made. Importing Western music, Chinese folk music began to be modernized after the establishment of the Republic of China.
Chinese music has simple and bald expressions so the stories of music are neither specific nor logical. Basically, Chinese music is composed as monophony and has five musical scales. Chinese folk music has a unique way of expression that is using sophisticated dynamics and it makes very active feeling but at the same time, sorrowful.
Mongolian music describes Mongolian nomads’ lives well. In the music of Mongolia, there is a clatter of horses and a picture of milking horses, caring of cashmeres and so on.
Mongolian folk music is composed of various instruments and the most distinguishing is a singer’s voice. Mongolian unique singing style which is called ‘Kuumii’ is very attractive to hear because it makes both high-tone like a whistle and low-tone of base. Another unique singing style is ‘U rtiin duu’ and it is very complex and heavy so that hearer could imagine the mentality of Mongolian people and a grand plain of Mongolia.
In some folk music, dammar and small drums are used. The strings, guitars, trumpets, and three kinds of pipe are also used to an accompaniment for a singer.
In the 5th and 6th century, Japan already had its own music but that was too basic and insignificant. The 5th century to 9th century, many other Asian countries’ music introduced to Japan and especially Korean which had been affected by Chinese seriously contributed in development of Japanese folk music. But Japan took a national isolation policy in the middle of 9th century and made a reform in foreign music. So several instruments were prohibited and it became an opportunity for Japan to make new musical pieces. Buddhist music had been handed down and became a new genre called ‘Heikyoku’ and local music changed into ‘Nou’, one of the most important folk music of Japan.
Late in the 16th century, exchanges with foreign countries were accepted again and Christian music was introduced. In addition, a new formation of music which is with folk stories was made in this age. But in the Edo time, Japan took a national isolation policy again and Japan developed its own music. After that, Japanese folk music has been under of uncountable transformations and separations so that Japan has preserved various folk music. From the Meiji period to Showa period, however, the mainstream of Japanese music culture had shifted to Western music.
The history of the Koreans is embodied in music, ranging from delicate court music to folk songs expressing the joys and sorrows of life. For example, the unique musical pieces of 'Sujecheon' and 'Yeongsanheosang' were made in considering sounds as a means for people to communicate with nature and the universe and these pieces express peaceful and serene feelings. Therefore, traditional Korean music can be characterized as natural, harmonious, and adapting. These characteristics also can be seen in musical instruments. Western musical instruments are made mainly with metals. On the contrary, Korean musical instruments are primarily made of natural materials. The wind musical instruments frequently used in modern days such as 'daegeum' (a large transverse bamboo flute), 'danso' (a small notched vertical bamboo flute), and 'piri' (a cylindrical oboe with a bamboo body) are typical instruments from nature, just like bamboo brought from a bamboo field. Stringed instruments such as 'geomungo' (six-stringed zither) and 'gayageum' (twelve-stringed zither) resemble nature with twisted silk strings put on top of a paulownia resonator.
Traditional Korean music is divided into court music and folk music. Court music is to communicate with the universe, but folk music is to reach nature. The former is universal and the latter is worldly. In this manner, traditional Korean music expresses nature and the universe alike.
One time, in Japan’s colonial rule, Korean traditional music declined because foreign music was introduced and Japan repressed Korean traditional culture. After the independence, however, Korean traditional music was handed down and developed by who tried to raise it again.
Three main countries of Northeast; China, Korea and Japan.
Some people say, the folk music of China, Korea and Japan are similar to hear. It is, probably, due to these countries common part of history. Three countries has shared similar musical history because China had grandly influenced to Korean and Japanese culture before they took owns’ way to improve folk arts. But since Korea and Japan stopped accepting the Chinese music unconditionally and started to utilize it to make new form of arts, each country’s folk music has been improved to the original thing.
The three countries have a consistency that they need some way to revive thief folk music. Undergoing the confusion which is a collision of oriental culture and western culture in late of the 18th century, traditional music of three countries has declined. Even though three countries have tried to mix traditional music to western and make new form of folk art, the result is too small to be called as success and musicians’ trials to develop the folk music used to just stay on the step of preserve. Unfortunately, this is not question of only three countries but of all Asian countries.
So now, it is the time to do the best to find the solution for this situation and the key to revive all Asian countries’ excellent traditional music.
Since pre-Hispanic times, folk art (arte popular) in Mesoamerica has been the primary vehicle through which people have expressed their dreams and fears, courted their lovers, amused their children, worshiped their gods, and honored their ancestors. Today, as in the past, folk art is produced throughout Mesoamerica. Largely because of long-enduring and numerous cultural traditions, made possible by Mesoamerica's ecological diversity and community isolation, it remains a region of rich and varied folk expression.
The Mexican artist and art critic Adolfo Best-Maugard (1923) has stated that “folk art is above all the synthetic expression of the soul of the people, its tastes, its ideals, its imagination, and its concept of life.” As in other parts of the world, in Mesoamerica folk art is local, un-self-conscious, community-based artistic expression. For the most part, it is made to serve its place of origin. Folk art also functions as a buffer between the individual and/or the community and the larger physical, social, and spiritual environments. It is a cultural response to demands that come from these sources, helping individuals and communities to cope. Mesoamerican folk art meets the challenges of the physical environment through, for example, special agricultural implements, clothing, house types, and countless daily-use items. Elegant ceramic water-support ensembles from the tropical Zapotec community of San Blas Atempa, Oaxaca, are cultural responses to the local physical environment. Excellent examples of the way that form follows function, every aspect of their construction responds to the challenges of storing cool water. They function in the following way: fresh water is placed in the jar and covered with a ceramic lid; it is then nestled in a broad, shallow dish, half-filled with sand and balanced atop a hollow ceramic female figure, often sculpted and painted in realistic ways. The porous clay of the jar allows water to cool through evaporation; since warm water “sweats” through the walls of the jar, cool water is left inside. This warm water is absorbed by the sand in the dish. Because the jar and dish are elevated, the dirt floors of the local huts are kept dry.
Throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and other parts of Mesoamerica, folk art also responds to demands that emanate from the social environment. Dress, which signals community affiliation in Indian Oaxaca; communal houses for village officials among the Tlapanec Indians of Guerrero; dolls used to socialize Guatemalan children into their adult roles—these and numerous other examples are traditional artistic responses to local social environments. Finally, folk art responds to local demands in the spiritual environment by facilitating communication between individuals, their saints, and their ancestors. For example, votive paintings allow the faithful to publicly acknowledge favors received from Roman Catholic saints, thereby satisfying sacred vows. Then, too, many objects created for Days of the Dead and offered in village graveyards or on household altars provide dual functions of strengthening ties between generations and, at the same time, easing communication with the deceased.
Folk Art through Time.
As in contemporary Mesoamerica, folk art was ubiquitous in pre-Hispanic societies. Set apart from more formal, trend-setting, and self-conscious expression of such great urban centers as Tikal, Monte Alban, and Teotihuacan, where pan-Mesoamerican styles were often born, pre-Hispanic folk art was rural, local, and slower to change than its avant-garde urban counterpart. In addition, the needs of the community at large were met, rather than the demands and tastes of a small but powerful class of the religious and political elite.
With the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century, and the subsequent depopulation of the indigenous world, all the Mesoamerican art changed dramatically. Art associated with the indigenous religious, military, and social power structures was strictly prohibited by the conquistadors and their Roman Catholic priests and, if found, promptly destroyed. Art obscured by remoteness and isolated from the centers of power of the new lords of the region, tended to survive—in some cases, to the present. Art forms not associated with the Spanish maintenance of potential threatening indigenous hierarchies were also left alone and, in many instances, continued to thrive and evolve. Practically all Aztec religious art was destroyed because it threatened new Catholic hierarchies. The pre-Hispanic ceramics—well-made, serviceable, and a threat to no one—persevered.
In general, a great deculturation took place throughout Mesoamerica, and into the cultural vacuum created by the Conquest moved new cultural forms from Spain and elsewhere in Europe—the household altars of Chiapas and Hidalgo; the giant processional figures of Celaya, Oaxaca, and Antigua in Guatemala; the glazed pottery of Guanajuato, Puebla, and Totonicapan; the masked dance dramas of Chichicastenango, Veracruz, Chilapa, San Juan Teotihuacan, and a thousand other villages and towns. All trace their origins to Spain, with few exceptions. In addition, traditional furniture, ironwork, non- Indian textiles, passion plays, votive art in the forms of body parts, testimonial paintings, and countless other forms of Mesoamerican folk culture trace their origins back to Spain.
Something important occurred when these Spanish-rooted folk forms arrived in the Americas—many were immediately changed to meet the needs of the new places, peoples, and cultural conditions. They were transformed into folk art forms palatable to Mesoamericans. Catholic saints, first associated with the Spanish conquerors, were changed and eventually integrated into the lives of the vanquished. Santiago Matamoros (Saint James, the Slayer of Moors) is a good example of this transformation and appropriation; Santiago came to Mesoamerica as the patron saint of Spain and the Spanish army, since the Moors had been defeated in the Iberian Peninsula and expelled to North Africa and other Arab lands in 1492, after dominating Spain from 711 CE. During the siege of Mexico, “Santiago y a ellos!” (“Santiago, and after them!”) had been the battle cry of Cortés's army. According to tradition, the saint miraculously appeared dozens of times in Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere in the Americas, to assist the Spanish. Soon, this impressive figure was adopted by indigenous peoples, and he assumed new appearances and attributes. In Guatemala, he became the patron saint of mares, and he is still invoked by men looking for a wife. As Altman (1980) has shown, in Sololá, Guatemala, the image of Santiago is still dressed in traditional indigenous attire and paraded through the streets on feast days. Essentially, Santiago has become a valuable member of the community he serves.
Through time, Mesoamerican governments have either supported or reviled traditional popular art. At the turn of the twentieth century, during the rule of the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz (1877 -- 1911), official Mexico had little use for folk art and instead looked to the arts of Europe and the United States for inspiration. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 -- 1920 changed that; the new order enthusiastically embraced pre-Hispanic and folk art forms in the effort to build a new national identity, based on what was native to Mexico. Similar situations existed in other parts of Mesoamerica and continue into the present. Contemporary Mesoamerican folk art is at the confluence of the many currents mentioned above. It contains persistent elements of Native American cultures; pervasive Spanish elements introduced during the Colonial period; West African motifs brought in during the years of the slave trade; Asian elements that resulted from several centuries of trade between Spain and China via the Philippines; and strong modern influences, notably those of the United States. All are important ingredients in the rich modern recipes for the Mesoamerican folk arts.
Geographic, demographic, historical, and other dimensions often account for the quality and quantity of the folk forms produced in Mesoamerica today. The geographic setting often provides the same materials that have been used through the ages. Therefore, potting communities are always located near sources of clay and the fuels for kilns. Then, too, the persistence of folk art occurs where there are concentrations of indigenous peoples, such as in Oaxaca, highland Guatemala, Chiapas, and the mountains of Puebla. There the artisans still use traditional materials, such as textiles woven on backstrap looms, indigenous-style pottery, objects associated with non-European curing, and other specialties. Another factor may be the historical background of a particular area. The region surrounding Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacán, reorganized in the sixteenth century by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, is characterized by a network of craft communities that were based on Thomas More's Utopia. Tzintzuntzan made pottery, Santa Clara del Cobré produced copper items, and other villages specialized in other things. Today, each of these communities continues to specialize in a particular craft, and each cooperates symbiotically with other communities in the region.
Many Faces of Regional Folk Art.
There are many manifestations of folk art in contemporary Mesoamerica, and classifying this material has been difficult. Some scholars have studied folk art according to the materials used, such as wood, metal, straw, paper, and so on. Some study it by time period. Others study it by geographical region. Here, function is suggested as a useful way to organize and study folk materials. Although categories according to function may be fluid, Mesoamerican folk art can be divided into four basic types: utilitarian, ceremonial, recreational, and decorative. Utilitarian folk art—clothing, household furnishings, cooking utensils, equestrian gear, farming and fishing equipment, objects associated with a trade, and other necessary objects—exists throughout Mesoamerica; it is usually made to satisfy both daily and practical needs. Ceremonial folk art, perhaps the most dramatic and visible form of folk expression, is usually associated with celebration, both religious and secular. In this category are the religious statuary for household altars, the votive objects to give thanks for favors received, the sugar skulls to entice the souls of deceased family members back to the family compound during Days of the Dead, and the dance masks used in performance. Some masks are used to disguise identity, transforming the dancers into powerful animals, historical figures, characters of opposite gender, or figures born out of the dreams of shamans. In the Nahua community of Atzacualoya in Guerrero, more than a dozen masked dance dramas are performed each year on 2 February, to celebrate the community's patron, the Virgin of Candelaria. Masks for jaguars, buffoons, Spaniards, monkeys, and dozens of other characters help present tales that are both entertaining and historically significant. Some dance groups are local but some come to the village festival to perform; all use the occasion to honor the Virgin in whose hands rest the well-being of their families, crops, and animals.
Recreational folk art is often whimsical and may be used by children for entertainment and amusement. Dolls, games, toys, and other items are in this category. Recreational folk art often performs other equally important functions. Throughout Mesoamerica, children are given toys that allow them to act out the scenes of real life. Boys are given miniature farming implements, machetes, and fishing tools that are similar to the objects used by their fathers, so that they can move readily into the adult male world. Girls are often given cooking pots, miniature weaving tools, and toy dolls that help prepare them for the adult roles of housekeeper and mother. Puppets are used to entertain, but puppets often teach religious, political, and moral lessons. During the late nineteenth century, Puebla's great puppeteer, Rosete Aranda, performed exciting reenactments, such as the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Mexican defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla.
Decorative folk arts also exist to brighten the corner of an otherwise drab dwelling or to enhance a dress on market day. Into this category are also placed vast array of folk art produced for tourists and for export to the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. Frequently originating from forms used locally, such things are destined for shops and museum shops in Paris, Santa Fe, London, and New York. The wood-carved animals of Oaxaca, once designed to please the simple traditional tastes of neighborhood children, are now meant for collectors and the eclectic tastes of foreign markets. Here folk art is again a coping mechanism, but this time for artists who have found themselves living in a cash economy.
Makers of Folk Art.
Men and women, young and old, rural and urban, Indian and non-Indian may be today's folk artists. Most are still part-time specialists—who work as farmers, masons, and fishermen—but they also make folk art for their contribution to a communal festival or for sale, to augment meager incomes. Others are full-time specialists who make textiles, pottery, tin toys, and countless other things to sell locally or for export.
Most folk artists receive their educations informally, by working as apprentices for already established artists, parents, or older siblings. Some, but not many, are selftaught. Most are economically marginal, although those who have connected with export economies are often among the wealthiest members of the community. In spite of the relatively low economic status of most, folk artists are usually held in high esteem by their neighbors, since they are seen as vital links between the past and the present—caretakers of traditional life.
Folk art is constantly changing to meet new times and circumstances. It is born, dies, and is reborn anew each day to face the challenges of modern Mesoamerica. Today, the societies of Mexico and Guatemala are changing at rates far greater than ever before. Improved communications link previously isolated villages to the cultures of neighboring towns and cities and allow for the importation of new materials and ideas. Once heavily populated rural areas are rapidly emptying, as young people are drawn to the cash and opportunities of the cities, and even other countries, leaving older relatives behind to fend for themselves until they can send cash remittances to help them. Folk art and the traditional folk artist have suffered from these changes. Despite them, or perhaps because of them, folk art continues as a vital coping mechanism for individuals as well as communities throughout the region.
Chichicastenango, a town in the center of the Quiché Maya region of Guatemala, has managed to cope with the changing world by providing flexible cultural responses to several audiences. The town plays host to hundreds of thousands of intrusive tourists each year and has organized its market to meet their considerable and complex needs. Income from this “outside” source allows members of the region to survive in the modern, cash-based world, albeit at times only marginally. Yet the town has not forsaken its strong indigenous roots, and throughout the year stages dozens of traditional religious ceremonials that support ancient belief systems. Today, Chichicastenango is a host to two worlds—one of great antiquity and the other of modern and rapid change. The tourist market makes it possible for the traditional society to survive.
Folk Arts and Crafts Works
Her Majesty the Queen has been addressed strongly in an effort to support and improve the folk arts and crafts in every region in Thailand and to enable farmers to earn supplementary income apart from agriculture which is the main income and because of Her Majesty the Queen’s proficiency in folk arts and crafts improvement and development, the Promotion of the Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) Foundation was founded, made the local handicraft products which, in the past, were produced on the first floor of traditional Thai house only for using as family’s utilities and some which, are going to be ceased become the craftsmanship in the world market, internal and external, including to be accepted by its artistic and cultural value and its unique Thai style.
The birth of folk arts and crafts works began since 1965 during His Majesty and Her Majesty’s moving to Klai Kang Won Palace, Amphor Hua Hin. Her Majesty the Queen went to visit villagers in Tam-bon Kao Tao and asked rural women in the village to set up weaving group by sending some teachers to teach them at the back of Klai Kang Won Palace.
In 1970, a hugh inundation emerged in Nakornpanom province. Her Majesty the Queen, while visiting, saw Thai rural women, wearing beautiful traditional tie-dye cloth, called mud-mee. Her Majesty recognized in advance that mud-mee cloth would be supplementary occupation for the villagers. Therefore, Her Majesty asked the villagers to weave the mud-mee and Her Majesty would buy and wear them herself. Since then, a lot of people follow Her Majesty’s appreciation.
The Support Foundation for the Promotion of the Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques under Royal Patronage was established on July 21st, 1976 by the fund of officials and faithful people.
1. To provide opportunities to farmers, gardeners and their families to earn supplementary income without being worried about the climate-changed obstacle. This would improve their living to be better.
2. To preserve and prolong traditional Thai arts and crafts which almost dwindled by producing great quality products.
Her Majesty the Queen has been promoting the arts and crafts project in every region, depending on its characteristics and styles, for example;
Northern part: Her Majesty let them be taught how to sew, embroider, knit, thread and weave silk and cotton and hand-woven silk called Teen-Chok, including traditional Hill-tribe style cloth.
Northeastern part: Her Majesty recommended them to weave the patterned, tie-dye silk called the Mud-mee, the Prae-wa, the Kith and supported them to grow mulberry trees to feed silk worms.
Middle part: Her Majesty let them to be taught how to create the production of artificial flowers, miniature hand-made Thai dolls, various forms of basketry including preserved food etc.
Southern part: Her Majesty supported growing mulberry trees to feed silk worms, weaving silk and cotton, making Li-pao basketry and hand-woven Kra-chud mats.
The work of these activities of the Promotion of the Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) Foundation will support local people to spend time during the period after the annual harvest to create many kinds of handicrafts according to their local characteristics and styles, including their ancient expertise. The 2 main training centres have been found; The Chitralada Arts and Crafts Centre and the Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre.
To train the villagers in each village, Her Majesty the Queen brought them together as working groups, expected that they could gather themselves to work after training. To select people to be trained, Her Majesty the Queen considered from their skills and their regions so they could actually bring back the knowledge and skills to do the occupation.
Her Majesty the Queen managed the course of training by emphasizing on teaching these people so they are skillful enough to be able to work and develop the country.
The project of training for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) Foundation’s members is not only to train and to support them to gain knowledge and skills in many kind of occupations in order to survive family and themselves but also to instruct the members to be acquainted with Thailand well enough to be proud of being Thai by providing general information towards our geography, history, background of the unique and the liberty of Thai nation and how hard it was preserved and protected. Therefore, in the future, they have to pay an important role to keep our nation as a liberal nation.
Her Majesty found the internal and external markets to dispense the products of the members and opened Chitralada shops in Thailand as specific places to sell the products from the Promotion of the Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) Foundation.
For the external markets, whenever Her Majesty the Queen went to visit the foreign countries, she would always bring along Thai folk arts and crafts and the productions of the Foundation to promote and widen the markets of Thai handicraft products.
In this occasion, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit was awarded the prestigious Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for her sacrifice and dedication in making benefit to the world in improving and developing the living of the people and UNESCO’s Borobudur Gold Medal Award was presented as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to show that her work through the SUPPORT Foundation to be in accordance with the aim of UNESCO to preserve and develop the cultural heritage of the local Asian member countries.