A photographic opera from Mewar’s tribal dance tradition
New Delhi Almost ten years ago, an American artist-photographer moved his studio to Varda near Udaipur. What struck him, while capturing the rural communities there, was the presence of an indigenous Mewari performing art named Gauri or Gavri. Cut to the present day, Waswo X Waswo has been photographing Gauri dancers for many years, all of whom are men representing female characters. And it is their portraits and group photos that are presented as part of a series of painted photographs, titled Gauri Dancers: The Opera of Mewar.
Recalling his first encounter with a Gauri dancer, Waswo said, “He had bracelets, a cowboy hat, and sequins on his face. The following year, I photographed a shop selling papier-mâché masks used by Gauri dancers. Waswo admits it struck him as odd at first. But, he continued to photograph the dancers as they traveled from village to village, performing local Mewari legends and religious tales of epics. Their photos are hand colored by Rajesh Soni, a third generation Rajasthani hand photo colourist.
Interestingly, eight farmers from a village in Rajasthan installed a traditional Gauri elephant in the gallery! “It is made of charpoys, baskets and bracelets, and is exhibited as part of the show,” informs gallery owner Bhavna Kakar, adding: “Gauri dancers are unique at the confluence of southern Rajasthan and its borders with Gujarat. and Madhya Pradesh This predominantly tribal belt has a glorious tradition of oral literature and the performing arts, through dance and drama.
A key attraction of the Gauri dance, Waswo says, is that a lot of cross dressing is involved. “There is also humor. Watching them play, you can suddenly hear a joke about a politician! he shares.
Catch it live
What: Gauri Dancers: Mewar’s Opera
Where: Museo Camera Center for Photographic Arts, Sector 28, Gurugram
Until: October 15 (closed Mondays)
Schedule: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Nearest metro station: IFFCO Chowk on the yellow line
Author’s tweets @siddhijainn
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