Storytelling through crafts — why and how craft has always been a form of expression

Everyone likes a good story. Be it through cinema, blogs, and radio in modern times or through art and craft. After all, it is a form of entertainment, it enlightens and it’s a part of being a human being. Studies say storytelling is at the core of human existence. An article in The Wired says, “We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise. So powerful is our impulse to detect story patterns that we see them even when they’re not there”


Storytelling is the strongest form of communication


Art in itself is integral to Human life as studies also say that art gives humans a sense of optimism for the future directly or indirectly. Art breaks barriers of communication, and telling a story through a medium that conveys thoughts and reinforces them, has always been the way to go. Art is expressive and it is greatly valued when it tells a story.


Storytelling through art had its beginnings from the times when the caveman decided to scribble on the walls of his cave many thousand years ago. Since time immemorial, art has given us a look into the life of people throughout the world, over centuries. The hieroglyphs were possibly one of the first completely developed language systems written in a pictorial style in ancient Egypt. Ancient Greece and Rome used art to record historical events and stories of Mythology and Politics. The Renaissance period brought about another chapter in story-telling through art in Europe and so did Chinese and Japanese art forms.


We are spoilt for choices in India as it is culturally rich as well as diverse and with every culture, an art/ craft form is associated along with plenty of stories. In India, we have almost all the ancient art and craft, telling us stories of mythology, about the life and times of the people when these arts were first practiced. They speak about the origins, migration, and evolution of the human race. It speaks about the lifestyle practices, civilizations, politics, administration, religion, and culture of those times. A big part of our history comes from the stories or events these art forms have conveyed or documented.


Take, for example, just the Bengal Pattachitra art that has at least 5 aspects- The Durga Pat, Chalchitra, Tribal PattaChitra, Medinipur Patachitra, and Kalighat Pattachitra. Each with its own narrative, each giving us a glimpse of Bengal of the bygone era. The Orissa Pattachitra has its own sub-categories.


Madhubani from Bihar was based on ancient mythological epics like Ramayana and on nature around the artists of that time. Likewise, the Gond of Madhya Pradesh is a tribal art form which shows the tribe’s beliefs and everyday interactions with elements of nature. The Life of Budhha and his teachings are still conveyed and practiced through Thangka art in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Darjeeling. Kerala mural tells stories from Hindu mythology and Warli showcases the lifestyle of Tribals in North Sayahadri’s in Maharshtra.

Not only Paintings, stories have been told through other craft forms too. The Chamba rumal, a style of embroidery from Himachal narrates the story of Krishna and Gopis whereas the Naga woven shawls are vibrant and rich in color, often depicts the tribal lifestyle in the Naga hills and have motifs and patterns woven in on the shawl inspired by real life. And how can one not talk about the sculpture and carvings in Ajanta & Ellora caves or of Khajuraho when it comes to stories. These are just a few of the popular ones, the entire country, throughout its vast span, is dotted with narratives.


The diversity of the art through which stories have been told speaks volumes about its popularity as a medium. It continues to tell stories through modern, traditional as well as modern illustrations. It seems like, no matter what unexpected changes, technology may bring to our lives, a story will always find an art to express itself.


Cover Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash