A typical two storied mud house under Telihar village in Naogaon (left); and artistic decoration on the door of an aboriginal house at Nitpur in Naogaon. Photo: BP

Sarker Shariful Islam, Rajshahi
Adibashi folk art, originated spontaneously from the core of heart of the indigenous people in praise of beauty, is facing extinction in the Barind region now a days.
For thousands of years, the adibashi people of Rajshahi region have been nurturing the exquisite folk art which they drew on the walls of their houses, the music they used to sing at various ceremony including marriage ceremony and religious ceremonies and the stories those their fathers and forefathers used to tell to their children and grand children are now becoming extinct and obliterated. In addition to these folk-art, the charming songs, legends and sermons which have no written form and which have been preserved for ages in the mind and memory from one generation to another are going to be vanished.
The art of making of various types of handicrafts by using branches and leaves of various trees, ornaments made from muds, stones and metals by the adibashi people are also on the verge of extinction now a days.
It is learnt, in the Barind region of the country where a huge number of aboriginal people of at least 33 separate communities live, are now virtually struggling for their ethnic and religious identity. The conversion to
Christianity, migration due to poverty, NGO activities and invasion of alien culture are some of the causes that have been identified as villain for vanishing of aboriginal folk art, folk songs, stories, religious sermons and legends.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of statistics (BBS) and local unit of Adibashi Unnayan Sangstha (AUS) and Jatiya Adibashi Sangstha (JAS), there had been 259,240 adibashi population in greater Rajshahi districts (including
Barind areas) of Naogaon, Chapainawabgang and Rajshahi in 1991. The figure increased to 349,924 in 2001 with total families numbering 62,881. Though there is no accurate figure of aboriginal villages in the districts, according to a crude estimate of AUS, there are at least 1,200 villages inhabited by aboriginal population.
Aboriginal population in four districts of greater Rajshahi of which around 350 belonged to Naogaon, over 300 belonged to Rajshahi and the rest belonged to Natore and Chapainawabganj.
So far 33 aboriginal communities (races) have been identified in the Northern region which are: Santal, Urao, Rajbanshi, Munda, Murari, Mahali, Malo, Malpahari, Mondol, Pahan, Rajoar, Turi, Buna, Kole, Kheroar, Mecho, Muchi, Karmaker, Harijan, Khaira, Teli, Luta, Rukhi, Mushar, Rai, Lohar, Bhuiyan, Bhumij, Bhuimali, Massir, Murier, Koach and Ramdas. Most of these communities had their distinct features including physique, dresses, house patterns, ornaments, religious practices and cultures.
It is still easy to differentiate a house of Urao people with that of Santals by watching the art painted on outer wall and pattern of their houses. It is applicable for other community people as well.
During the past half-century (five decade), thousands of adibashi people of the region migrated to India. Many of them migrated there hoping for new source of income and others went there because they were evicted and forced to leave their houses allegedly by their land lords. As a result, many expert adibashi people who used to compose
songs, make stories and train their children on handicrafts have left the country. The conversion to Christianity is also a main cause of obliterating the adibshi folk art and crafts. While an adibahsi person turned to Christian, he does not think him that he belonged to a person of adibashi people. His entire practices including religious, social and habitual practices are changed.
His pattern of making the house, dress, sermons all are changed to Christianity.
The Christian Missionaries in Rajshahi division have converted several millions of adibashi people to Christianity. By promising them of good job and help, the Christian missionaries converted the adibashi people but there are wide and mass allegations that once they are converted to Christianity, the missionaries forget all their promises that they committed to the adibashi people.
In the recent years, the menace of NGO has emerged as a main factor for obliteration of their folk art practices. The NGO’s have bound almost all able bodied males and females with their network of credit programme. One person has been disbursed loan from five, six, seven even ten NGOs. And, to manage the ‘kishti’ (installment) of loan, almost all the people remained busy in work and making contract with the NGO workers even after the evening.
As a result, the adibashi people get no time for practicing to flourish
their latent traditional and inherited talents. The wall-art of the aboriginal people found scattered in villages are unique creation of adibashi people. Besides wall-art, there are floor-art, floor decoration, house decoration, handicrafts and exquisite ornaments. These arts bear their sense of aestheticism.
In order to preserve these near-extinct art, songs, legends and sermons of aboriginal people, the Bangladesh Women Journalists Society (BWJS), a Rajshahi based organisation for women journalists, has taken up initiatives to preserve some of those arts and folk
song through using video and cameras. But, due to lack of patronisation, the work could not proceed further. Due to utter poverty, scarcity of time and most of the adibashi people are now reluctant to paint their house walls and decorate their floors. There being no culture of their own languages and even there having no written form of their languages, the adibashi folk songs, stories, legends, there is no development of the adibashi languages. As a result, the songs, stories and legends sung and told by adibashi people are being obliterated.
There is no time for the adibashi elders to sing the song to their children or to tell the story to them. Most of the people remained extremely busy to earn their livelihood leaving no time to practice songs or telling stories. Elder people who know those indigenous songs, stories and even religious sermons are dwindling fast. It is apprehended that within a short time, the indigenous folk art, songs, stories and legends will be vanished and extinct.
The floods of 1988, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2014 had also broken the backbone of adibashi people. In the Barind areas, nearly 100 percent rural houses were built by mud. But the floods changed the rural habitats. Instead of making mud houses, comparatively well off people turned to corrugated tins and the poor inclined towards bamboo, straw and jute-sticks. As a result of using of bamboo, straw and jute sticks, the use of mud for making houses has been reduced. The adibashi people used to paint art on the walls of the mud built houses. The changing housing pattern is also a major cause of vanishing wall art. Another cause had been migration of adibashi people with their families in search of work to towns leaving their households deserted.
In recent years, there has been a sort of stability among the adibashi people. There being ample scope of employment at the rural areas, the adibashi people now-a-days do not migrate to other places in search of work. As a result, they are getting enough time to devote to artistic pursuits.
The wall and floor arts of the adibashi people are not painted by male membets but by the female members of a house. Often, there had been some Master Artists in the village who were called by other female membets of the village to teach them the art of painting and design of the floor and wall art. The adibashi people have uphold their tradition for centuries, generation after generation.
Most of the wall art of the adibashi people belonged to floral motifs and geometrical designs and ornamentation. No form of animal is depicted in such art. To paint the walls,the aboriginal people use red-soil, black soil, sand-soil, sand, charcoal, juice extracted from tree barks and leaves, ashes and many other natural items.