Bhuri Bai, The Tribal Daily Wager Who Won a Padma Shri

Bhuri Bai, 52, from the Bhil tribal community of Madhya Pradesh is a Padma Shri awardee whose paintings have been exhibited all over the world, including in the UK and USA.

Bhuri Bai belongs to the Bhil tribal community of Madhya Pradesh and there was a time in her life when she struggled to earn Rs. 6 per day by doing daily wages at a construction site. But now she is the recipient of Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award given by the government of India and her Pithora paintings have been exhibited all over the world.

Pithora is a ritualistic painting done on the walls by the Rathwa, Bhils, and Bhilala tribes. The art form is carried forward through generations as a traditional occupation.

Bhuri Bai was born in the Pithol village in Madhya Pradesh. As a child, she used to watch people paint the centuries-old traditional Pithora paintings on the walls around the village. And despite the girls of the village not being allowed to do the painting, Bhuri Bai used to paint on the mud wall of her house.

Later in her life, when she was 17, she met the incredible artist, Jagdish Swaminathan while working as a construction worker in Bhopal. He supplied her with paints, brushes and art materials that she has never seen before. Like this, she entered the wide spectrum of art and was the first woman in her tribe to draw on paper. Today, her paintings are showcased at many galleries in and out of the country, including the US, Europe, and Australia. In fact, her painting ‘a story of the jungle’ was sold at Sotheby’s famed auction.

Instead of living in the glory, she went back to her village where girls are still restricted from practising any art. Bhuri Bai teaches them whatever she has learned and helps in preserving as well as propagating the age-old art. Today, Padma Shri Bhuri Bai works as an artist with Adivasi Lok Kala Academy in Bhopal.

“I am very honoured and proud to receive the award and I want to dedicate this to all the girls in rural areas who dare to dream and not let the circumstances define their life,” Bhuri Bai said in an interview.

Credits: The Better India

Read the full story here.

-Staff Reporter

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