For the paintings, they prepare a primer with dung, water and clay to which light or dark yellow ochre is added.
After a few days of drying, the liming is now ready. To paint, they use a section of a date palm leaf’s midrib (khajur) which works as a reservoir as it is fibrous. My guide tells me that at times it is the tip of a plait which acts as a brush.
The vertical and horizontal surfaces offer themselves to the graphic incantations of the women who perform often in groups. They guide the milky liquid in a multitude of broken, oblique and curved parallel lines letting the ground or walls ‘s ochre appear. The white hesitates a long time between transparency and opacity but the translucent paleness is quickly replaced by a radiant presence capturing the light to become matter. The ochre adds texture to the white in a variety of patterns inspired by village life.
During Diwali one observes ear millet designs (bharadi), cow hooves, oil lamps, inkpots or pens to symbolize yearly accounts, a scale and weights to increase trade. Other designs mirror hospitality in the shape of sweets (laddu, jalebi), a hand fan (bijani) and the vermilion pot (sindhur). The women also reinvent in multiple ways, domestic or everyday objects. Among them: the chaupad, a cross checkerboard ancestor of the parcheesi game, the jar (kalasa) or the Rajasthan stepwells (baoli) dug into the depths of the earth and flanked by vertiginous stairs leading down to the water. The iconographic repertory includes four to eight petals floral motives (phulya). A six petal flower (shahphulya) suggests goddess Lakshmi’s lotus shaped throne.