Artistic Agency in the Contemporary Indian Anglophone Picture Book: A Study of Pardhan Gond Aesthetics and Tara Books

Samarth Singhal
UC Riverside

This project seeks to understand how Indigenous storytellers from the Pardhan Gond community in Central India collaborate with alternative publishing houses like Tara Books to create illustrated books. The intent is to look for how Indigenous voices, usually marginalized, can be heard and appreciated via the medium of the Anglophone picture book in contemporary India as more and more Pardhan Gond Indigenous artists are illustrating content for such picture books, many of which are published by Tara Books. By discussing contemporary Anglophone picture books and by interviewing the artists, publishers, and art administrators who participate in the process, the study hopes to intervene in the following scholarly disciplines: Children’s Fiction Studies, Picture Book Studies, Visual Culture Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. The Indian picture book is under-researched and my work opens the medium up via multiple frames. Pardhan Gond artists have attained class and geographical mobility by creating visual art. In discussing their picture books, the current project analyzes how the artists fashion their own worldview despite continuing governmental policy measures that harm their traditional practices and resources.