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Painted scrolls have been used in Bengal in eastern India for centuries as a means of telling religious stories and also of informing people about important current events. Although today even the smallest village is likely to have access to televised news, this tradition continues in the villages of West Bengal not far from Kolkata.

Major events, whether local or global, become subjects for painted scrolls – recent examples have been the Asian tsunami, the Gujarati earthquake, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, as well as broader subjects such as birth control and the spread of AIDS. The scrolls, a long strip of paper backed with cloth and painted in registers are carried from village to village by their painters and are unrolled before an audience, to the accompaniment of songs which tell the story of the events depicted.

The attacks on New York on September 11th 2001 quickly became the subject of scroll paintings. This one, acquired from the artist, Madhu Chitrakar, in 2005, was painted in the village of West Medinipur in West Bengal in about 2004. The scroll is 4.1metres long by 55.9 centimetres wide (about 13 foot long by 2 foot wide).

You can look at individual scenes from the scroll in the selection below; you can also zoom in on the whole scroll in the image below.


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