AI5_15_2017_3_32_30_AM_Main_Image.jpg
A Village is a Busy Place

A fold open activity book, it draws out the everyday lives of the Santhal people, one among the largest tribes of India and Nepal.

Featuring Patua scroll painting by a young artist Rohima Chitrakar, the book is dipped in red, green and mustard – the bright hues characteristic of Patua providing a panoramic illustration of the village.

Sun and Moon

Silkscreen-printed on handmade paper, Sun and Moon is an appropriate example of Tara Books’ approach to handcrafted books from paper to binding.

With each page printed by hand in their fairtrade bookmaking workshop that consists of a commune of artisans, the book features artwork rooted in various traditions alongside being universally accessible.

This Truck has Got to be Special

A tribute to the artisanship and labour that goes into decorating trucks in Pakistan, the making of this book involved conversations between author Anjum Rana who works with truck artists Hakeem Nawaz and Amer Khan, artist and designer Sameer Kulavoor and graphic designer Rathna Ramanathan.

The book takes colours and patterns from Pakistani trucks and sets it in a context that celebrates the intricacy and joy everyday art. Driven along some of the most mountainous terrains in the world, truck art is not only symbolic of the intimate connection that the owners have with their trucks but also the strenuous work life.

AI5_15_2017_3_32_30_AM_Main_Image.jpg
Lab 22 May 2017

Handmade Books, Tribal Art and Colourful Stories Set the Tone at Tara Books

There are no blank pages when you’re reading a Tara Books publication. From cover to endpapers, every inch is filled with delectable colours and messages. We spoke to V. Geetha, Editorial Director of Tara Books to go behind the press and see how the stories transition from aural experiences to visual narratives in their latest releases.

Printed locally, but read internationally, Tara Books brings strong voices forward for children and adults to acquaint themselves with. Talking about everything from body image to peace, they work closely with tribal and folk artists to tell stories from several communities. Whether it is exploring a folk poem from the 16th Century or illustrating the story of a self-taught artist from rural India, their list holds visuals at the helm while weaving indigenous arts and contemporary anecdotes to create books for children and adults.

“The visual traditions of India are important because they communicate across language and cultural divides,” said V. Geetha, editorial director of Tara Books.  These traditions are essential for coherent communication to break barriers across languages and culture. The content of children’s books is increasingly becoming a matter of concern for parents and teachers, but disseminating information through creative learning makes the books a favourite among schools and families alike. ‘Visit The Bhil Carnival’ takes the child through an interactive experience of the Bhagoria carnival using the traditional Bhil style. One of their latest releases ‘Sun and Moon’ brings various folk and tribal artists together to illustrate stories of the sun and moon and introduces children to various traditions. We sumptuously devoured four recent launches to give our readers glimpse of the handcrafted process.

A Village is a Busy Place

A fold open activity book, it draws out the everyday lives of the Santhal people, one among the largest tribes of India and Nepal. Featuring Patua scroll painting by a young artist Rohima Chitrakar, A Village is a Busy Place is dipped in red, green and mustard – the bright hues characteristic of Patua providing a panoramic illustration of the village. Having worked with the form for over a decade, the team from Tara Books went into the process understanding the reciprocal relationship of the Santhals and the Patua painters of Bengal. “We wanted Rohima to create a tapestry of activities that happen in a Santhal village through the year. It was not difficult for her to accommodate our suggestions in the artwork because these artists have a brilliant sense of timing,” explained Geetha, about the sophisticated graphic narrative form that is Patua scroll art. However, form is just as important as content of book making. “When we received the artwork, we had to think through the process of transforming it into a book. We needed to retain the scroll form, otherwise the art could not be read visually,” she added, on the decisions that helped stitch the vivid images with the text, making the book easily navigable, effective and entertaining.

A Village is a Busy Place

A fold open activity book, it draws out the everyday lives of the Santhal people, one among the largest tribes of India and Nepal.

Featuring Patua scroll painting by a young artist Rohima Chitrakar, the book is dipped in red, green and mustard – the bright hues characteristic of Patua providing a panoramic illustration of the village.

“We wanted Rohima to create a tapestry of activities that happen in a Santhal village through the year. It was not difficult for her to accommodate our suggestions in the artwork because these artists have a brilliant sense of timing,” explained Geetha.

Sun and Moon

Silkscreen-printed on handmade paper, Sun and Moon is an appropriate example of Tara Books’ approach to handcrafted books from paper to binding. With each page printed by hand in their fairtrade bookmaking workshop that consists of a commune of artisans, the book features artwork rooted in various traditions alongside being universally accessible. Each numbered copy was printed with 74 impressions, otherwise known as pulls, over a period of two months. As each book at Tara gets a befitting treatment, for Sun and Moon they worked with eight different screens to print the eight colours that tie the book together. Combining Gond tribal art from Madhya Pradesh, Madhubani from Bihar, Meena art from Rajasthan, Patachitra from Orissa, Pithora tribal art from Gujarat and Mata-ni-Pachedi ritual art from Gujarat, the book introduces children to a range of folk traditions. Translating the stories of the sun, the moon and the planets, the book is a collection of exquisitely-rendered folktales.

Sun and Moon

Silkscreen-printed on handmade paper, Sun and Moon is an appropriate example of Tara Books’ approach to handcrafted books from paper to binding.

With each page printed by hand in their fairtrade bookmaking workshop that consists of a commune of artisans, the book features artwork rooted in various traditions alongside being universally accessible.

This Truck has Got to be Special

A tribute to the artisanship and labour that goes into decorating trucks in Pakistan, the making of this book involved conversations between author Anjum Rana who works with truck artists Hakeem Nawaz and Amer Khan, artist and designer Sameer Kulavoor and graphic designer Rathna Ramanathan. The book takes colours and patterns from Pakistani trucks and sets it in a context that celebrates the intricacy and joy everyday art. Driven along some of the most mountainous terrains in the world, truck art is not only symbolic of the intimate connection that the owners have with their trucks but also the strenuous work life.

This Truck has Got to be Special

A tribute to the artisanship and labour that goes into decorating trucks in Pakistan, the making of this book involved conversations between author Anjum Rana who works with truck artists Hakeem Nawaz and Amer Khan, artist and designer Sameer Kulavoor and graphic designer Rathna Ramanathan.

The book takes colours and patterns from Pakistani trucks and sets it in a context that celebrates the intricacy and joy everyday art. Driven along some of the most mountainous terrains in the world, truck art is not only symbolic of the intimate connection that the owners have with their trucks but also the strenuous work life.

Along with interviews on the truck drivers’ lives, the challenge in this book was to create a visual narrative that would do justice to the gigantic three-dimensional surfaces that truck artists work with. Calligraphy, decorative metal work, landscapes, representations of birds and animals, and graphic market imagery are core to Pakistani truck art. With bursts of fluorescent paint and talismanic elements to ward off bad luck, the interiors of the truck are often dressed in silk and satin upholstery, with painted ceilings and mirrors, making the truck a canvas reflecting the vibrancy of the country. It was crucial to ensure that the truck artists and their variegated styles were at the crux of the visual narrative. To accomplish this, Kulavoor sent the truck artists outlines of truck parts, which they then coloured in the ways they wanted. These dribbles of colours were the focus of the book while other illustrations remained in black-and-white. These images were then worked into the book and put together with the text by Rathna Ramanathan to create an elaborate dialogue.

At a time when quantity and speed are at the forefront of many discourses, Tara Books shows resilience to return to handmade craft and folk art for storytelling. “Not all of India is invested in speed and immediate gratification,” Geetha summed up, expressing the overwhelming love and response that they continue to receive for their books. Working with indigenous art traditions is complex and many-layered. Nevertheless, Tara Books engages in this to provide a rich and dialogic experience, going on to create meaningful relationships with their artists. Apart from being a space to share aesthetic concerns, the books are also portable galleries for arts and crafts that articulate a motley of stories for children and adults alike.

Browse through the three books, on Tara Books' website
A Village is a Busy Place: https://tarabooks.com/shop/a-village-is-a-busy-place/
Sun and Moon: https://tarabooks.com/shop/sun-and-moon/
This Truck has Got to be Special: https://tarabooks.com/shop/this-truck-has-got-to-be-special/