Inside A Pune Studio Working With Tribal & Folk Artists To Preserve Cultural Heritage

Studio Kuumba is working towards educating and popularising these art forms.
Studio Kuumba is working towards educating and popularising these art forms.Studio Kuumba

The deep history and nuances of traditional Indian art and crafts are being brought to the forefront by designers, artists and academicians alike. As a country with an extremely diverse population, there are as many traditional art styles as there are communities, each with their own unique medium and techniques. Tribal and folk art are two of the popular types of art that capture the history and knowledge systems of certain communities. 

While art has always been a way to celebrate life and pass on knowledge from generation to generation, there is a huge difference between tribal and folk art. Folk art is usually defined by geographic origins and is a community-based art that depicts the religious beliefs and values of the people of that particular region. Some of the popular folk art forms in India include Kalamkari, Pattachitra, Thanjavur, Miniature and such. Tribal art, as opposed to this, are those works created by a particular tribal community and are usually named after them too. Since the culture and mores of tribal communities are closely entwined with nature, a lot of the art prominently features motifs related to it. Some common tribal art styles include Gond, Warli, Bhil and so on. 

Even though the terms are used interchangeably, there is a substantial difference between these two styles of art. Aesthetically, folk art is more intricate, ornamental and more colourful, whereas tribal art depicts slice-of-life motifs and features limited colour palettes. But what ties them together is how they are a celebration of community and traditional knowledge systems.

Studio Kuumba is a Pune-based fashion venture founded by designer Himani More that is working towards educating and popularising these art forms. As a textile designer who has studied and worked extensively in the industry, Himani wanted to create a brand that went above and beyond to showcase Indian art and artisans, as well as the stories and community knowledge that inspired them. With their growing team, Studio Kuumba is working towards co-creating products with traditional artists from communities across India, helping them preserve their traditional knowledge, and even helping them integrate technology and industrial know-how into their practice. 

By working with traditional artists, the brand is hoping to facilitate the preservation of these art forms that are fast disappearing. They conduct extensive discussions and sessions with the artists to better understand the challenges and aspirations of the artists and to create solutions or paths towards addressing their needs. They collaborate and co-create ideas with the artists and help develop the products, and work in a profit-sharing model alongside them. In keeping with their aim to educate and preserve community knowledge, the social media page and website of Studio Kuumba is a treasure trove of information about folk and tribal art. 

The first collection from Studio Kuumba is called Tattva which is inspired by the Warli art form which originated in Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat. The collection leans into the art form and the community’s deep love for nature and its bounties. The collection, therefore, features the natural elements — water, wind, fire, earth and space — on gender-neutral shirts. The base colour of these pieces represents traditional materials such as charcoal, cow dung and the red earth that Warli artists traditionally use to paint with. The illustrations in this collection were created for Studio Kuumba by 12 Warli artists, whose names are featured front and centre on the product page as well. 

The next collection from Studio Kuumba is inspired by the folk art of Pattachitra which originated in the eastern states of Odisha, West Bengal and even Bangladesh. The brand is also working towards capturing and sharing more content that captures folk tales, traditional art techniques, behind the scenes content, production processes, artist stories and even on-field logs to help people learn more about the brand and the art forms themselves. 

To learn more about Studio Kuumba, stay tuned to them here.

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