Sonabai Rajawar: Indian Folk Artist

I found two articles by Dastkari Haat Samiti (an Indian non-profit organization) about wonderful art created by self-taught folk artist Sonabai Rajawar. Sonabai transformed her home into a magical, imaginative world to delight and entertain herself and her son from their isolated misery.

Sonabai lived in an isolated village in rural India in the latter half of the 20th century. She began decorating her house with painted murals and low-relief clay sculptures in the 1950s. “The Brilliance of Sonabai Rajawar” video provides a portrait of the artist.

What goes unmentioned in “The Brilliance of Sonabai Rajawar” video are the details of her life. Sonabai was married at age 14 to an older man and for 10 years was unable to bear children. At the insistence of her husband, Sonabai lived within the walls of her rural house, ostracized from her family and community. After 10 years Sonabai bore a son, but her jealous husband continued to isolate her and her son inside their home. Because they were poor, the only toys Sonabai could provide her son were toys she created herself. So she dug clay from the sides of her well and molded the clay into toys for her child. Her son laughed with joy.

Springing from those initial efforts, Sonabai began painting and decorating the walls of her house with simple murals and clay bas-relief sculptures to delight her child. She also added elaborate decorative lattices to her home.

More details of Sonabai’s difficult life can be found in this online article and in a short film (trailer below):

Although Sonabai died in 2007, the artistic tradition she started has continued by other local artists. The second article entitled “A Museum of Clay Relief” shows village walls in Sonabai’s village of Puhputra in central India.

You can see additional examples of Sonabai’s later work on this YouTube video:

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