Sumanti Devi hails from the village of Jashpur in Chhattisgarh but has been living in a modest dwelling in Baba Nagar, Bhopal since she was 15. She uses painting as a medium to express the rich traditions, customs and festivals of the Oraon tribe. Oraon painting has no precedence so she is the first and only painter from her community. She does extensive research on the Oraon folklores before putting colours to her canvas for their most authentic portrayal. Festivals like Karma and Sarhul, celebrated by them in different parts of the country, are vividly described in beautiful colours. The subjects of her paintings vary from simple day to day activities of people in her village to dance forms and depiction of rituals during festivals. She says that growing up, she was unaware of the rich history of the Oraons. However once she started painting she also started interacting with the village elders to find out more about her community, and in turn her own identity This made her quite knowledgeable and earned her a lot of respect within her community and outside. She has travelled with her paintings to Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and various parts of Madhya Pradesh. Apart from this she is also part of a dance troupe which has earned its own share of fame and love. Oraon folk tales are now at the tip of her tongue and she can sit and share mesmerising stories which will make one appreciate and understand the Oraon and in turn the tribal way of life. 
Her aim is to keep the stories, which have been passed on through the age-old oral tradition, alive through her paintings and spread it as far as possible and establish a space for the Oraon voice to survive be heard.     

Sumanti Devi a painter, a dancer, a teacher and an upholder of Oraon culture and tradition at her home in Bhopal 
She uses natural colours like the earth 
From her village in Jashpur
And leaves for her paintings
She grinds them into a paste 
To get shades of green
And uses brittle lumps of earth
  Beats them into a powder
And mixes it with water to paint various shades of yellow
She considers painting to be a holy activity so wears fresh clean traditional clothes every time she paints
Both Sumanti and her sister Anu are deeply involved in this art-form
They carefully mark the borders with strings laden with colours
And then mix glue with the pigments so that it sticks to the canvas
Sumanti creates mesmerising patterns with her fingers which is a signature of her paintings 
She uses her bare fingers to bring life to the blank canvases
Every painting of hers portrays an Oraon folk tale
Masterfully composed with the natural colours from her village
Trees and dance play a major role in the visual portrayal of her stories 
She spends hours on each canvas 
Paying attention to the minutest details
And creates paintings which are earthly, vibrant and strike a chord with the viewer at first glance
Having travelled widely across the country with her beautiful paintings, she has been trying to single-handedly spread the Oraon folklore into the wider world.

Supported by: Tata Steel Foundation

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