Sonia Chitrakar / India b.1998 / Tsunami 2012 / Natural colour on mill-made paper with fabric backing / 280 x 56cm / Purchased 2016 with funds from the Estate of Jessica Ellis through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Sonia Chitrakar

Sonia Chitrakar
Tsunami 2012

Not Currently on Display

‘Patachitra’ or ‘pats’ are scroll paintings from West Bengal on which mythological or epic stories are painted as a sequence of frames. Artists would travel from one village to another, singing the stories as they slowly unrolled the scrolls, and in this way the stories travelled from place to place. In exchange for storytelling, the artists would receive payment from each community.

More recently, contemporary local and global events have become subjects for these painted scrolls. Artists have addressed the Asian tsunami (2004), the Gujarat earthquake (2001) and women’s rights. Scrolls like these have also been used by aid organisations, such as the Red Cross, to educate villagers about health awareness.

The Chitrakar (meaning ‘image maker’) community are clustered around a small village in West Bengal in India. Sonia Chitrakar, was born in Naya, West Bengal in 1998. She specializes in making patachitra. In the past patachitra artists used handmade brushes and extracted natural dyes from local flowers, leaves, minerals and spices (such as turmeric, teak, soot, and bel fruit) and store the colours in coconut shells, however now they have access to other materials.

Traditionally, scrolls were painted only by men and the scrolls were not sold but retained for performances until they become old and faded, when they were then ceremonially gifted. Sonia Chitrakar is one of the female artists and has become one of the most skilled artists to practice this form.