An exceptional exhibition at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi has become the talk of the town. Crafted in collaboration between the Sankala Foundation and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), this exhibition stands out for featuring paintings exclusively created by tribal artists hailing from 54 Tiger Reserves across India. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger on April 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proudly announced that the wild tiger population in the country had reached 3,167, growing steadily at a remarkable rate of 6 percent annually.
The Genesis of Project Tiger and Its Impact
In the year 1973, when it was realized that the tiger population in the country had dwindled to approximately 40,000, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a mission to save the tigers, named Project Tiger. Today, after nearly five decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on April 9, 2023, released the Tiger Census Report, revealing that the tiger population has reached an impressive 3,161. This achievement reflects the combined efforts of the government and the local communities.
Tribal Perspectives: Tigers as Deities and Guardians
Many tribes view the tiger not merely as a majestic beast but as the guardian of the jungle. They believe that the presence of tigers ensures the safety of the forest, as tigers prefer dense jungles and contribute to the natural balance by attracting rainfall. In their cultural ethos, tigers are revered entities, and the exhibition captures these sentiments through vibrant and symbolic paintings.
Bridging Art and Conservation Efforts
Ranjit Kumar Singh, the driving force behind the initiative and the director of the Sankala Foundation, expressed the inspiration behind the paintings. As a guardian of forests and gardens, he emphasized the need for awareness in both the tribal communities and the surrounding areas about the importance of safeguarding their natural heritage.
The Collaborative Effort: NTCA and Sankala Foundation’s Initiative
The exhibition titled “The Silent Conversation: From Margins to the Center” showcases paintings created by tribal communities living in or around tiger reserves. The goal is not only to celebrate their artistic talent but also to raise awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation and the coexistence of tribal communities with the tiger population.
Looking Beyond Art: Empowering Communities
The initiative goes beyond art, intending to empower these communities economically. By recognizing and promoting their artistic endeavours, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Sankala Foundation aim to provide alternate livelihood options for marginalized tribal populations.
A Vision for the Future: Annual Recognition and Capacity Building
The organizers envision turning this event into an annual celebration, not only acknowledging the artistic prowess of these communities but also enhancing their capacity through workshops and guidance. The goal is to improve the quality of paintings and create a sustainable market for their artwork.
Conclusion: Gratitude and Hope for a Sustainable Future
In conclusion, the Silent Conversation exhibition, backed by the NTCA and Sankala Foundation, stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of tribal communities and their unique relationship with wildlife. The hope is that this initiative will not only celebrate art but also contribute significantly to conservation efforts, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between tribal communities and the majestic tigers of India.