Choti Tekam is a Gond artist from Mandala district in Madhya Pradesh. She grew up seeing her mother beautify their home and courtyard with Digna, a form of decorative painting with geometric motifs.
She began practising this art by herself at first. Being in harmony with nature, green pastures, forest trees, animals and village life, Choti used nature to inspire her art.
Her love for Gond art, the forms-figures-dots and dashes reflect her close connection with natural surroundings. Gond paintings depict various celebrations, rituals and human being‘s relationship with nature.
They are vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and Gods. The paints were originally derived from natural ingredients such as charcoal, soil, leaves, flowers and cow dung, however most of the Gond artists have started using acrylic colours and canvas to paint in current times.
Choti Tekam was young when she married Santosh Tekam who belongs to the family of renowned artists such as Jangarh Singh Shyam.
She learnt the basics of Gond art from her husband Santosh & soon her life changed as she moved from her village to the city of Bhopal.
Financial burden took a toll and in times of uncertainty, she was forced to do local household works. She also worked as a daily wage worker in the Museum of Mankind, Bhopal.
Choti was determined to bring a change in her life. Her passion for the newly learnt Gond art was a skill she could build on, and she kept nurturing her learning in bits and parts from centres of learning like Bharat Bhawan and Museum of Man.
Gond Tribal art gained recognition when Jangarh Singh Shyam’s, ‘Bharat Bhawan’ was discovered by Artist Swaminathan. He opened doorways to opportunities and precipitated a new, wider appreciation of Gond tribal art. ‘Choti Tekam’, finally dedicated herself in creating art pieces for her livelihood.
Gond Art gave Choti new wings; she was in love with her colour palette and enjoyed this way of earning income. However, the commissions were scarce and many of the hopeful artists had to work as gallery guards.
But, there was no looking back, Choti and Santosh Tekam started creating innovative art forms from marriages, customs, rites and cultures of the Gond community. They started exhibiting in local exhibitions and eventually in exhibitions from state to the national level.
Choti met Baaya Design’s CEO & founder, Shibani Jain in one such exhibition in Mumbai. Shibani was impressed by her use of strong forms and colours. Following their conversation, Shibani felt that women artists like Choti, should be given platforms to showcase their work.
There is a need to galvanize and encourage artists like her to excel at their art. Today, Baaya takes pride in giving Choti not only a platform to showcase her artwork but also gives her opportunities to conduct Gond art workshops.