Asian Ethnology 81 1&2 | article Paintings, Painters, and Patrons Institutional Interventions in the Lives of Cheriyal Paintings

Anaïs Da Fonseca

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Folk painting heritage institutions narrative performance tradition south India

In the early 1980s, the All-India Handicraft Board developed an interest in Cheriyal paintings as part of its initiatives to sustain Indian handicrafts. The Board’s intervention increased the paintings’ visibility and initiated the institutionalization of the Cheriyal painting tradition. In this process, painters adapted their practice to new forms of patronage beyond the local community, particularly museums and the handicraft market, and incorporated new techniques, iconography, and style. In examining various case studies of Cheriyal painting commissions, this article argues that Cheriyal paintings have dynamically adapted to social and cultural changes, particularly to changes in patronage since the 1980s. It further argues that institutions invested in Cheriyal paintings and folk arts and crafts from India, with the intention to ensure crafts’ sustainability, have constructed and disseminated a rhetoric of disappearance while encouraging innovation and developing new forms of patronage.