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Singing Pictures: Women Painters of Naya

Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Producer n/a
Directed by Lina Fruzzetti, Ákos Östör, Aditi Nath Sarkar
DVD, color, 40 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Art, Women's Studies, World Music

Reviewed by Lauren Aldridge, Huddleston Bolen LLP Law Library, Huntington, WV

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 4/23/2007

Singing Pictures tells of the Patua communities in West Bengal, India. The Patuas tell stories through singing and the use of painted scrolls. In earlier times the Patuas would travel from village to village and sing their scroll stories in exchange for coins or food, similar to a wandering minstrel. Competition from television and radio served to erode the art form.

Recently, a group of women have formed a cooperative and have taken up scroll singing. Unlike their ancestors who sang stories of Muslim saints and Hindu gods and goddesses, these women have added stories about social themes such as education and public health to the traditional repertoire.

Singing Pictures shows the entire process the women go through to produce their art. The women grind plants and herbs to make paints, compose words, melody and storylines into a song, and paint the scrollwork to go along with the story they will sing. The women also tell about their motivation for composing the songs that deal with social issues.

This movie is recommended for senior high through adult students due to some sensitive social issues raised in some of the scrollwork and songs (circumcision to prevent HIV, birth control and religious views, and the war in Iraq).