Painting and singing stories told in scrolls (patas in Bengali) goes back to ancient times in India. For generations hereditary painter-singers (Patuas or Chitrakars) have been practicing their craft in the Midnapur district of West Bengal. In the village of Naya, 3 hours from Calcutta, many Chitrakar women have recently taken up the Patua craft.
Patuas are Muslims, and they tell the stories of Muslim saints (pirs and fakirs) as well as Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and offer devotion to saints at Muslim shrines. In the past they used to wander from village to village, receiving rice, vegetables and coins for their recital. They would unroll a scroll, a frame at a time, and sing their own compositions. But competition from other media eroded this way of life and nowadays the Patuas are trying to adapt to changing conditions.
A website about Naya and the Patuas is at http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu/naya/intro.html
The website contains translated texts of the songs that are performed with the scrolls. This is the song about HIV/AIDS
Artist: Swarna Chitrakar
Listen, everyone, pay attention. I would like to talk about HIV AIDS
HIV came from the west & has infected hundreds in India.It is not an infectious disease. It spreads from 4 things:
Using the same syringe for addiction, using the same syringe for injection; from pregnant HIV carrier women. Or having unprotected sex with ‘infected’ women
In case these 4 things are taken care of, HIV will not occur. That is why I request the Doctors; the syringes for injection should be changed.
In case of blood transfusion, the blood has to be checked first.
If a pregnant mother carries a baby, it can be born infected.
I appeal to all Indians to use Nirodh condoms.
If anybody has AIDS, don’t keep it secret. Get admitted to the district hospital. You can test your blood in confidence paying Rs 10 in VCTC centers.
Lina Fruzzetti, a professor of anthropology at Brown University, has worked with the women of Naya. This is an interview made in her office in Providence, RI, in November 2009.
Interview Part Two Lina Fruzzetti Interview Part Three Lina Fruzzetti's page at Brown University:Within social anthropology, my specialty is in the relationship between kinship, marriage, and rituals and the meaning of the construction of gender in India. I have done extensive work on caste and the life cycle rites of Hindus; now I am addressing the recent structural changes to the institution of marriage and what constitutes the person. My research on nationalism and post colonial studies has taken me to a more comparative approach addressing the feminist movement, and the problems and politics of identity and citizenship within Islam and Hinduism. In addition to the primary research work in India, I also focus on East and North Africa communities.
My interest in visual anthropology took me beyond using films to teach. I co-directed four documentary films on varied themes and topics about the communities with which I work.