In the nineteenth century, itinerant artist-storytellers known as patuas performed in villages throughout the cultural region of Bengal (eastern India and Bangladesh), using patas (narrative scrolls) to illustrate their tales. They often adapted their stories from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which they would inflect with contemporary social and political commentary. In an analogous fashion, later twentieth-century Bengali patuas expanded the traditional narrative repertoire to include stories of national and international import. This pata, for example, depicts the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi, third prime minister of India, by two of her bodyguards. Like his predecessors, the patua here divides the episodes into distinct frames, which he can then roll or unfurl as his story proceeds. Other such patas of the period provide instruction on the proper use of birth control, raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic, and commemorate the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, among other timely topics.
deities; figures; fires; narrative; patterns; structures
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