The soil of Sarguja is rich, loamy and varied. Deep black, ochre and white, their colour and texture lends itself to possibilities of being moulded by hand. Terracotta crafts have been practiced by potter (kumhar) communities from this region as a profession. But the Rajwars, traditionally landowning farmer communities, have long held a special affinity with this clay, beyond the needs of occupation or even ritual. After their homes were built by men, Rajwar women plastered the walls of their homes with clay (lepai) embellishing them afresh every year after the rains. This process has nurtured their creativity, for clay embellishment has a special role in their lives and homes. The art of Sona Bai Rajwar was fostered in this context but grew beyond it spurred by her individuality and creativity. After her ‘discovery’ in 1983 by a group of field researchers from Bharat Bhavan, she received both national and international recognition. She was awarded the Tulsi samman in 1983, and became the subject of several etudes which valorised her as gifted artist, and broke the anonymity of her practice. Mushtak Khan who was leading this team recounts this narrative of discovery and its consequence, based on his knowledge of Sona Bai’s life and art. He also repositions stories of her life and art that have grown and spread over the years, separating as it were, chaff from grain. According to some accounts, Sona Bai's art grew from a situation of dis empowerment. That is not true. Sona Bai had agency over both her life and art.
There were other Rajwar women whose work received recognition. Sundari Bai was one of them. This module takes a look at Sona Bai’s life, privileging her home as the well spring of her creativity. It also looks at Sundari Bai’s art, as a fellow traveler on this journey from the home to the world.
This content has been created as part of a project commissioned by the Directorate of Culture and archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh to document the cultural and natural heritage of the state of Chhattisgarh.