Telling Tales: Story Scrolls from India sends Bengali boards to the Williamson in Birkenhead

By Ben Miller | 23 February 2012
An image of a colourful illustration of fish nudging a circular shape in the sea
© National Museums Liverpool
Exhibition: Telling Tales: Story Scrolls from India, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead, until April 15 2012

You can see the thinking behind the Ethnology team at Museums Liverpool’s decision to send their collection of contemporary Bengali scrolls on tour.

The long, vertical, multi-panelled works (known as patas – literally, paintings) spent centuries being carted from village to village by the picture makers (patuas) of West Bengal. The famous storytelling community would divide each section into a part of their tale, designed to be gradually revealed, sometimes in return for a small fee for the teller.

These modern versions visit the Williamson as part of a trail around six venues in the north-west, and the colourful portable storyboards – made by leading Indian artists as part of the host group’s Collecting Contemporary India scheme – highlight issues ranging from AIDS and women’s rights to environmental disasters and the war in Afghanistan.

“The project has been a very successful collecting programme for us,” says curator Emma Martin.

“I'm delighted we are getting the chance to share these brand new pieces with museum visitors across the region.”

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