Riding the Roller Coaster with Ganga Devi

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Works by Ganga Devi (1928 – 1991), found in the book Ganga Devi: Traditions and Expressions in Mithila Painting by Jyotindra Jain.

From Wikipedia: “Madhubani painting or Mithila Painting is a style of Indian painting, practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar . . . and Janakpur in Nepal.”

Jain explains Devi’s non-traditional subject matter:

While she was deeply rooted in the tradition [of Mithila painting], which was a source of inspiration in her work and of courage in her tormented personal life, she was one of the few Mithila artists to respond spontaneously and vigorously to the possibilities offered by the availability of paper in the region [starting in the early 60s]. . . With the availability of paper, Ganga Devi no longer confined herself to painting the ritual kohbar-ghar and aripan, with their limited vocabulary of symbols and images, but started to investigate the unlimited potential offered by line drawing….

Devi’s position as a preeminent traditional Mithila painter brought her opportunities to travel to Russia, the United States, and Japan…. Moscow Hotel, Festival of American Folk Life, and Ride in a Roller Coaster are examples of how an Indian village artist attempts to mythologize the great contemporary urban symbols of our time. In these paintings Ganga Devi transforms the ordinary commonplace images of hotel facades, motor cars, national flags, ticket-booths, roller-coasters, and people carrying shopping bags into imaginary and ‘fantastic’ objects.

Unfortunately this book is long out-of-print, used copies are prohibitively expensive, and it is not a likely candidate for a reprint. (Like too many of the books on my site!)

For a guide to in-print books featuring Indian folk art, see BibliOdyssey’s recent post on the Indian publisher Tara Books.

03 Ganga Devi, Ride in a Roller Coaster, 1986, from the America  Series (2)
Ganga Devi, Ride in a Roller Coaster, 1986, from the America Series (2)
01 Ganga Devi, Latpatia suga, entwined parrots motif, 1988-89
Ganga Devi, Latpatia suga, entwined parrots motif, 1988-89

02 Ganga Devi, Snake diagram for worship on Nagapanchami festival, 1987-88
Ganga Devi, Snake diagram for worship on Nagapanchami festival, 1987-88

04 Ganga Devi, The Sun Flower Tree, 1990, from the Japan Series (14)
Ganga Devi, The Sun Flower Tree, 1990, from the Japan Series (14)

05 Ganga Devi, Stories of Rama (II), 1977, detail, Rama killing Ravana
Ganga Devi, Stories of Rama (II), 1977, detail, Rama killing Ravana

06 Ganga Devi, Stories of Rama (II), 1977, detail, Hanuman jumping across the ocean
Ganga Devi, Stories of Rama (II), 1977, detail, Hanuman jumping across the ocean

07 Ganga Devi, Naina-jogin, 1988-89
Ganga Devi, Naina-jogin, 1988-89

08 Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (scenes from the rural life of Mithila)
Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (scenes from the rural life of Mithila)

09 Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (Pregnant woman reclining on the ground)
Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (Pregnant woman reclining on the ground)

10 Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (young woman being given a ritual bath on the attainment of puberty)
Ganga Devi, The Cycle of Life, 1983-85, detail (young woman being given a ritual bath on the attainment of puberty)

11 Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi
Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi

12 Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi
Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi

13 Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi
Ganga Devi, 1989, detail of a wall painting at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi

14 Ganga Devi, aripan, 1990, from the Japan Series
Ganga Devi, aripan, 1990, from the Japan Series

Previously:

Women, Snakes, & Stalkers: South Asian book covers
Book Cover Design in India 1964-1984
Vintage Indian Pulp Book-of-the-Month Club


Will Schofield is the editor of 50 Watts (original name: A Journey Round My Skull) and Writers No One Reads. More from this author →