Communication Tools

Story Telling through painted scrolls is an age-old practice of village folk in different parts of India.

Before the advent of Cinema the ingenious artisans devised a method of presenting the moving image with an audio accompaniment.

In West Bengal the form is known as "Jorano -Pat"and is found in significant concentration in the Midnapore District.

Taking themes from the dramatic mythology of India, stories are illustrated in a sequence of frames on a long sheet of paper backed with cloth, which is rolled into a scroll. An accompanying song is created, telling the story, frame by frame.

Traveling from Village to Village, The painter-lyricist-singer, sits before a large audience and sing out these stories while unrolling the Scroll. He is paid in terms of food or money.

For hundreds of years this has not only been a means of entertainment but also education and information.

The Patuas of Medinipur are an endogamous caste whose religion and customs lie between Hinduism and Islam. While they follow Muslim custom for life-marking ceremonies, they paint primarily Hindu stories, and observe a number of Hindu rituals.

This performance genre once drew its stories from the great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and other traditional narratives. In recent years, however, local nongovernmental organizations have begun commissioning scrolls addressing health issues such as polio vaccination or the prevention of diarrhea. Other scrolls have told of the evils of dowry deaths and female infanticide or dealt with how to overcome illiteracy. This set the stage for the most recent development in Patua performance: the use of scroll painting and singing for HIV/AIDS education.

Nandita Palchoudhuri, a folk arts curator based in Kolkata, became concerned that Patua scroll painting was dying out due to competition from television and also the collapse of the system of patronage that traditionally supported it. Some of the best artists sought alternative employment in furniture making, the gem-cutting industry, or farming. In 2001, Palchoudhuri approached Rani Chitrakar and her husband, Shamsundar, with the idea that they produce HIV/AIDS scrolls .

A few years later, in 2004 Dr. David Gere, of the UCLA partnered Nandita Palchoudhuri to devise a new arts-based intervention program which has since been implemented in 2 districts of West Bengal with great success.

In each village, two Patua-one man and one woman-join a pair of community health workers at least one of whom is HIV-positive. Together they make multiple visits to villages, performing the Scroll that focus on themes of HIV transmission, stigmatization, testimonials of AIDS patients, condom use and access to medications and love with responsibility.

HIV Scrolls are being currently used in rural Bengal as a part of an HIV awareness program.