The Vayeda Brothers' 'Seed' Intersects Warli Tradition, Philosophy, and Renewal

Their art captures not only moments but essential truths.
Their art captures not only moments but essential truths.L: Architectural Digest India, R:

A handmade, limited edition picture book titled Seed written by Gita Wolf and illustrated by Vayeda brothers is the latest attempt to bridge the furrow between the utilitarianism of modern day agriculture and the holistic Warli naturalism that stretches as far back in time as 2500 BCE.

Native to the northern Sahyadri range, the tribal community of Warli desh has seen a protracted history of dispossession, from the 3,166 acres of forest land in Borivali National Park lost to Aarey Milk Colony in 1949 to the ongoing Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project uprooting 12 villages in Palghar district. Overriding the high-yielding hysteria of the Green Revolution, numerous talukas in Palghar district are reviving indigenous crops like godval (a hyacinth bean) that don't need excessive irrigation or fertilisers compared to the hybrid seeds introduced back in the early 60s.

This return-to-the-land phenomenon is being eagerly traced in what Tushar and Mayur Vayeda, artists and siblings from Ganjad village in Maharashtra, are calling the 'spring of ancestors'.

In their childhood, they were more likely to be found on the forest floor, scouring the undergrowth for moss, rather than gazing at sweeping vistas. Their inspiration springs from the minutiae: "The way a shadow falls on the curve of a leaf, a flower folding up when its bloom is spent."

Honing their skills under the tutelage of their aunt Meenakshi Vayeda, an artist herself, the brothers received their first major opportunity in 2015 when French collector and curator Hervé Perdriolle stumbled upon their work online. Perdriolle has since become a dedicated supporter, not only collecting their art but also organising exhibitions and facilitating sales of their pieces throughout Europe.

'Kansari' depicts the goddess of fertility.
'Kansari' depicts the goddess of

Warli paintings originally trickled down a chewed bamboo stick in a chalky white pigment made from rice paste and binding gum, onto an ochre background of red earth and bricks. The archetypal stick figure tableaux represent a tenuous interconnectedness of human beings within the lattice of nature and society, spiralling together in a cyclical tarpa dance of life that is eternally moving inwards — an introspective mandala — where consciousness is deepened towards the centre. 

The iconic spiral in Warli art that moves inwards.
The iconic spiral in Warli art that moves inwards.Vayeda Brothers

In late 2016, the two brothers made it to the Wall Art Festival in Fukushima prefecture (Japan). Their 100 by 170 centimetres mural, Paripurna Jungle, was depicted the dormant Mt. Bandai — once called the ‘rock ladder to the sky’ — disgorging magma like ancient wisdom from the fountainhead of repressed adivasi communities.

Their art captures not only moments but truths, as they introduce novel elements and alphabets into the age-old language and script of Warli. For the Vayeda Brothers, painting serves as an invaluable medium for documenting oral histories and contemporary narratives.

In recognition of their profound contributions, they received the prestigious Ojas Art Award in 2019.

Cultural custodians and storytellers at heart, the brothers recreated the centuries-old Khala ceremony at their 2022 exhibition Echoes of the Land – Art bears witness to a changing planet by offering a grain installation to Kansari, the goddess of fertility who is prophesied to bring about the regeneration of our bruised ecosystem. This millenarianist restoring of balance is at the emotional fulcrum of the Warli art legacy.

Mayur and Tushar Vayeda are on the verge of unveiling their latest project, 'Seed', in India later this year after an exclusive launch in Germany.

This exceptional creation effortlessly intertwines philosophy and biology within the intricate canvas of Warli art. It isn't even their first rodeo in the world of publishing, previously releasing Tail Tale in 2019 and Deep in 2020, both under the auspices of Tara Books. 

'Tail Tale' was published in 2019.
'Tail Tale' was published in 2019.Vayeda brothers

Emphasising upon the importance of seed keeping and spreading awareness about indigenous farmers struggling against the encroachment of GMO crops in the local market, the Vayeda brothers have been responsible for sustaining the relevance of Warli art whether it be painting the frontage of a housing block in Delhi’s Lodhi Art District in synergy with St+art India or their peacock feather motifs on Blue Tokai's packaging.

In the artistic universe, the Vayeda Brothers continue to shine as beacons of creativity and cultural preservation, offering a glimpse into the past while illuminating the path forward.