Singing Pictures: Women Painters of Naya (2005)
For generations, Patua (Chitrakar) communities of West Bengal, India have been painters and singers of stories depicted in scrolls. In the past they used to receive food or money for their recital of Muslim and Hindu stories and folk myths. Unfortunately, competition from other media significantly eroded this way of life. In response to this cultural crisis and as a way to make extra money, a group of women from Naya formed a scroll painters' collaborative. They candidly discuss issues of Islam and birth control, victimization of women, female education, poverty and work, religious tolerance and intolerance, and depict some of these ideas in the scrolls. Their stories attest to what it means to be a woman in Bengal and India today, demonstrating how a small group of determined women can empower themselves by adapting an ancient art to new conditions.