As the clock struck midnight on March 7, a group of Warli women were busy painting on the walls of a lobby at the palatial Collector Office in Palghar, Maharashtra.
The women, artists from different areas in Palghar district, had begun at 9 am and, with breaks in the middle, worked overtime until 1 am to finish their task, covering the walls with the distinctive, geometrically aligned, white-and-ochre Warli art. There was enough time for the paint to dry before the artwork’s inauguration, which was held on March 8, to commemorate International Working Women’s Day.
This was a significant event for a few different reasons. For one, it represented an assertion of a usually marginalised Adivasi cultural identity on the walls of a government building – the team, which calls itself the Dhavleri group, had approached the collector to secure permission to do the work.
“I felt it was important for Warli art to be visible there as Palghar is a fifth schedule area with a large Adivasi population,” said Adivasi social worker Kirti Vartha, who was one of the group’s founders. She was referring to the fifth schedule of the Constitution, which guarantees certain special rights and protections to areas with large tribal populations.