18th April 2016 – Between Memory and Museum: Illustrated talk and film screening

Book presentation and film screening by editor and filmmaker Arun Wolf, Tara Books, India on a dialogue with folk and tribal artists from India.

The Nomads Tent

06:00 pm – 08:00 pm

Monday April 18th, 6 – 8pm


Between Memory and Museum

A Dialogue with Folk and Tribal Artists from India illustrated talk and flm screening by Arun Wolf, Tara Books, India



Tara is an independent publisher of illustrated books for children and adults, based in Chennai, South lndia. For almost 20 years, we’ve worked with a range of folk and tribal artists from across India. Our aim has beento bring these indigenous artists into the form of the book, not as subjects but as authors and illustrators.

Many of these art traditions have an interesting history: they are believed to have originated from floordecorations and wall murals in homes or community spaces, as well as from indigenous tattoo practices. Over a period of time –and as a consequence of several historical interventions – artists began to paint on paper and canvas. These traditions aren’t static; they ebb and flow. lndividual artists constantly look for new opportunities, and are often eager to embrace new mediums.

They had never worked on books before we metthem, and this posed some challenges. Our work at Tara has been to helpconceptualise and guide them through the process of creating books.Through our collaboration with indigenous and folk artists over theyears, we have been concerned with the need to respect the integrity of traditional art forms, while also enabling experimentation and growth.

Many of these concerns – the relationship of tradition to the present, and ways of remembering the past while remaining open to the future – are the focus of our latest book Between Memory and Museum. The book gathers together the essence of our ideas and experiences. It is structured in the form of a dialogue that extends and deepens our understanding of how traditions change, the role of intervention from outside a community, and the emergence of new platforms for creative expression. The book offers a way of exploring and conceptualising these issues, focusing on an important repository of knowledge about traditional communities: the museum.


The Book

Between Memory and Museum is based on anextended conversation we conducted with 38 extraordinary folk and tribal artists from across India. Museums are influential sites of knowledge about indigenous art forms, and they have a long history of regarding the communities that practise them as anthropological subjects. But many of the artists from these communities are our contemporaries, and they belong to cultures that are very much alive in the present. So how do they feel about their representations?

Do these communicate a sense of lived life? What are the artists’ own ways of remembering and passing on tradition? Who has the power to put whom in a museum? The artists responded to some of the issues we raised, and based on the dialogue that followed, we reflect on the museum as an institution – both as areal site and a kind of metaphor or interface – in the way it preserves, creates and disseminates knowledge. This is an important, thoughtful, and sensitive book…

It makes you reconsider the multiple ways of thinking about art, its role, and its relationships; it presents quite beautifully many imaginative and eloquent images; it introduces to those of us outside India some of the riches of different community art traditions; and most importantly it shows us the artists speaking for themselves. A wonderful resource on many levels. —Christopher Hudson, Publisher, The Museum of Modern Art, New York


The Film

The short flm that accompanies the book is set in the Manav Sangrahalaya, an anthropological museum in Bhopal, India, where the conversation developed inthe book was initiated. It provides a context for this dialogue between words and images, and features interviews and performances by some of the artists. The film reflects the trajectory of the book by introducing viewers to the origins of these art forms, tracing howthey have changed, and exploring the relationship between what has made it into a museum and what remains outside.


Arun Wolf
Arun Wolf

The Event

Illustrated talk and flm screening by Arun Wolf On April 18, 6 to 8 pm at The Nomad’s Tent


Editor & Filmmaker

Arun Wolf

Uma Bai – Ghodna, Chhattisgarh

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