Exposing children to art and stories like in this book is a sure way to help them better relate to and respect the different environments, different ways of living, different fortunes, conditions and challenges people around the world may be facing. And what better way of bringing more empathy into our world than teaching our children to respect the differences.
“Where Has the Tiger Gone” is Tara’s latest book produced by the talented young designer Ragini Siruguri, whom I’ve had a pleasure of meeting during Tara’s “Twins” workshop in Sydney in March 2018 (click here to read more about the workshop and for more on my unconditional love of Tara Books click here).
This book is a compilation of traditional stories retold by Dhavat Singh Uikey, an artist from the Gond tribe in central India who has also illustrated the book.
“There was a time when tigers and human beings lived close to each other”, says Dhavat.
“In the way that we worship the earth, a river, a tree or the sun, we also respect and value the tiger…We value, but we also fear the tiger”. For some clans of the Gond people the tiger was a god known as Bagaisur.
Speaking about this book and her challenges as a book designer, Ragini says that it had to do with unpacking Dhavat Singh art’s symbolism and weaving it through the pages in a way that would do it the justice it deserves. This could mean fragmenting some of the larger scale works whilst being conscious of preserving their artistic integrity. The end result is fantastic from both the design and the aesthetic perspectives. The traditional illustrations in earthly greens, ochre and yellows are charged with symbolism, the Gond tribe’s admiration for the world they live in and their reverence for the tiger spilling out of every page.
One of my favourites is the illustration below, conveying multiple layers of meaning with an incredible efficiency and the economy of means.
Here is a symbolic face of the earth, which encompasses the whole of its natural world, juxtaposes it against human existence, shows the cyclical nature of time, day and night, its colours and patterns evoking the elements: earth, air, water, fire. Human existence appears to dominate the natural world but depends on it at the same time: I see a symbolic umbilical cord extending from human dwelling all the way down to the core of the earth, which supports it. Does this ‘umbilical cord’ double as a river flowing to the sea or is it the connection to our roots and the ancestors; is it perhaps all of the above? This face of the world – is it smiling or crying (or both)?
I’m sure different eyes will see different things here but to think that one illustration is able to convey as much with just a handful of colours, few simple shapes and small number of patterns – that blows my mind. Breaking down complexity and ordering its parts with such visual clarity and such elegant simplicity results in a 2+2=5 kind of synergy that this illustration delivers. Here are a few more images from the book, see what you can make out of decoding these or simply enjoy their traditional forms and design: