CONCEPT The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is India’s premier institution conceptualised and visualised by Dr. (Mrs.) Kapila Vatsyayan, Founder Member Secretary and IGNCA Trustee, as a Centre encompassing the study and experience of all the arts – each form with its own integrity, yet within the dimension of mutual interrelatedness with nature, social structure and cosmology. The Centre has conceived a major academic programme, which relates to exploring artistic manifestations emanating from man’s primary sense perceptions. Amongst the senses that lead to aesthetic experience are vision (Drshya) and hearing (Shravya). The rock art forms a crucial component of the Adi Drshya programme. Its conceptual plan aims to open the doors to the realisation that rock art is pure and absolute and hence capable of dispensing great experience beyond its original culture and time.

The IGNCA’s concern with prehistoric rock art is not restricted to the Archaeologists, and the pre-historians’ concern with establishing a linear chronological order of prehistoric rock art, nor is it restricted to the identification of style and school as criterion for establishing chronology. Instead, it is a concern for man’s creativity across time and space and civilisations and cultures through the perception of the sight. Briefly, the goal to be set is not merely the development of a database and a multimedia gallery but also to establish Adi Drshya into a school of thought and research on alternate means of understanding prehistoric art. So far, we have mechanistic, analytical approaches which assume that the underlying significance of this kind of creativity cannot be inferred by statistical counts of frequency of figures etc. Nothing could undermine the complexity and richness of this tradition more. At the moment, there is not much available in India by way of interpretive treatment of prehistoric art.

Rock art is one of our greatest surviving art treasures. It possesses a largest body of evidence of human artistic, cognitive and cultural beginnings. The intrinsic efficacy of the rock art lies in the universality of appeal and to endure and sustain in a manner in which all can discern it. Until recent past the content of rock art has been much commented on as an indicator of the stage of development of the authors of the rock art. But for a quite some time the attempts are being made by many scholars to explore the possibility of the proximity of rock art with the art of many living communities of the world – such as the indigenous people, the aboriginals, the tribal and the nomads. India is fortunate in possessing one of the three largest concentrations of this world heritage, the other two being Australia and South Africa, where rock art is still a living pursuit. Therefore, it will be a proud privilege for the IGNCA to host such an international conference of academic merit with an urge to analyse where we stand in the global context. We would have to understand the circular movement of our past and present, regional and global, part and the whole, self and the other, surface and the context in the rock art traditions of the world.

To decipher rock art, mainly three methods i.e. archaeological, psycho-analytical and ethnographical are being followed. In the countries where there is no continuality of traditions due to industrialisation, etc. the psycho-analytical and archaeological approaches are being mainly adopted. Under psycho-analytical method the psychiatrists are exploring the minds of the prehistoric artists. But in the countries like India, Australia and South Africa where there is continuity of traditions, the ethnographical and archaeological approaches are being mainly followed. In ethnographical study two main aspects emerge. One is direct relationship between tribal native groups and the rock art in their habitat. And another is the interference, which can be extracted from the cognition of the natives about this art. It does not matter if they did not do it or if it belongs to another age and precedence. It could help in making clear the meaning of the rock art depictions; why some and not others are ruled by the fixed laws, why is not possible to generalise when dealing with different people. The other factors, which could be investigated by ethno-archaeology includes – abrogation, superimposed drawings, destruction, and changing of sites. The concern for exploring new ways and means for rock art research and for deciphering rock art has opened a new chapter in the history of research in prehistoric and tribal art.

In the different parts of the world many international conferences have been held earlier on the general subject of the rock art but hardly a few on a specific theme in the global context. In India, the IGNCA organised a Global Rock Art Conference in 1993. In this conference the main stream of discussion followed the seminal issues like ‘Universality’ and ‘Chronology’. Other problems highlighted were those of conservation and preservation of rock art sites, the safeguard of the natural environment and protection of the right of the indigenous people inhabiting in the proximity of rock art sites. On this issue an “Expert Meeting on the Conservation, Preservation and Management of Rock Art” was organised by the IGNCA in 1996. Another International Rock Art Conference on the general subject was organised by RASI at Agra in 2004. The present conference would mainly focus on the “Recent Developments in Rock Art Research and Documentation”. The renowned international multidisciplinary scholars from all the five continents working on rock art will be invited to participate in the conference. These scholars would mainly address to the new documentation and research methodologies adopted for the interpretation of the rock art. They would also re-assess the acceptance of chronology as the sole criterion of rock art studies. In the conference the importance of the rock art, both for Archaeology and also ethnology and lifestyle studies would be discussed. The deliberations in the conference would follow mainly on seminal issues like the ‘Adoption of both scientific and humanistic methodologies’, ‘Form, content and interpretation’, ‘Consideration of context’, ‘Rock art site(s) as a cultural landscape’, ‘Cognitive mapping’, ‘Ethnographical approach to examine the phenomenon of continuity’, ‘Psychology and semiotics of art’, ‘Ethnic and regional characters’, ‘Universal framework’, ‘Rock art and modern society’, ‘Chronology’, etc.

Keeping in mind the rich concentration of rock art in India along with a vibrant living art tradition practiced by several communities across the country, the conference is focused to initiate a dialogue between academia and practicing artists both from the rural and urban areas. The conference has been conceived with a difference giving special attention to a new kind of inter-disciplinary research involving allied disciplines like Anthropology, Geology, Art History etc., which can open new horizons to the study of rock art. The deliberations in the conference sessions is proposed to be taken up under the following themes: : (i) Concept and Methodology (ii) Themes – (a) Forms (b) Content(c) Context (iii) Techniques (iv) Interpreting Rock Art – (a) Archaeological Approach (b) Ethnographic Approach (c) Psycho- analytical Approach (v) Interdisciplinary Approach (vi) Chronological Issues (vii) Cultural Ecology (viii) Documentation and Conservation.

Besides the conference there would be parallel events like special lectures, workshops, exhibition(s), demonstration of traditional ritual art forms, screening of films, and filed trip to a rock art site. Dr. B. L. Malla, IGNCA would be the coordinator for the conference.

Venue: Conference Room (CV Mess building), Janpath, New Delhi – 110 001

(6 – 13 December, 2012)

View Brochure – Rock Art International Conference 2012