Content research by Shivanki and Written by Ananya Maahir

In Mithila, an ancient city of Northern Bihar which is now known as Madhubani, nearly all women are experts in one or the other popular crafts of the region, namely – painting which has now become famous as Madhubani / Mithila painting, embroidery, papermache craft and Sikki grass work. Products made in these five crafts by a girl raise her popularity in the family. Such is the importance of craft in the region. Sikki craft is one of the most practiced craft form in the region.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft/

The Sikki grass craft has been in existence since hundreds of years. It is difficult to ascertain the exact age of this craft. However, as a craft used for commercial use is a more recent phenomenon, over the last couple of decades. Crafting products, mainly various forms of utilities, divine figures, and toys, using Sikki grass are an integral part of the living of the women of the part of Northern Bihar.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft

Generally, munj is used for coiling purpose due to its abundance in Mithila region of Bihar. It is completely coiled over and covered with sikki in such manner that it’s not visible.  Takua, the main tool is a six-inch long needle-shaped iron object with a rounded head which is used to grip the needle. Usually, the takua is used by the right hand and the product is held accordingly by the left hand. To make sikki grass more pliable it is dabbed with water. No threads or cords are used.

Even though sikki is a golden colored grass, various colors are added to it to make attractive products from it. Purple, deep blue, bright yellow, magenta, green and red all combined with the natural golden color of sikki grass are popularly used. The coloring is achieved by boiling sikki in different colors until the desired shade is reached.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft

SIKKI PRODUCTS

  • Jhappa- Big containers with caps to store food
  • Mauni- Trays for fresh fruits, betel leaf and nuts, flowers, etc.
  • Pauti- Beautiful small boxes with caps to keep jewellery, Dry fruits, and other costly items.
  • Gumla- Bowl like containers for various uses
  • Saji- Flower Baskets
  • Idols
  • Baskets
  • Ornaments
  • Toys

 Due to the invasion of television and other forms of entertainments women have found new ways of spending their time. This has decreased the popularity of this craft form. Industries in the area have decreased the availability of Sikki grass. But still, some women practice this craft form, mainly in Madhubani, Darbhanga and Sitamarhi regions of Bihar.

 These days new products like mobile cases, toys, paper weights, pen stand and other products are made besides the traditional products. Coiling without using munj is done by some artisans. Also a new art form has emerged using Sikki grass inspired from the Madhubani paintings wherein sikki grass is stuck on patterns of Madhubani paintings.

  


Content Research and Conceptualisation by Kaavya Lakshman and Content Written by Kaavya Lakshman and Saumya Sinha

Tikuli art is an unique art form from Bihar, which has a very rich and deep traditional history. The word ‘tikuli’ is the local term for ‘bindi’, which is usually a bright, colorful dot that women wear between their brows. Since olden times, the bindi was created as a symbolic mean to worship intellect and conserve the modesty of women. However, in today’s time, tikuli art serves as a source of empowerment for the women of Bihar.

A red bindi worn by married women signifies good marriage and virtue. It is an important symbol of Indian culture.

A red bindi worn by married women signifies good marriage and virtue. It is an important symbol of Indian culture.

HISTORY

Tikuli art originated in Patna over 800 years ago. It deals with beautifully designed paintings which are manufactured in the local streets of the city. With flourishing sales, Tikuli artform managed to influence traders from across the country to flock to Patna to buy tikuli art in bulk. The Mughals were active patrons of the art form and appreciated its many salient features.

This is a rare specialty of Bihar and no such work is found elsewhere. Since it is very intricate and detailed, it requires a special set of skills. Tikuli art is expensive too, as the value of the art is directly proportional to the refinement of the work. In the picture below, it can be easily seen that even though the figures are small-scaled, the artist has not compromised on the details.

intricate tikuli art

The intricate craftsmanship made tikuli art the sole privilege of the royalty.

With the decline of the Mughal Empire, and the coming of the British Raj, Tikuli art faced a severe blow. The British introduced industrialization, and so, indigenous goods came to be replaced by cheap machine-made goods. Thousands of Tikuli artists were left jobless as machine-made bindis came into the market, and Tikuli art was lost in the chaos.

REVIVAL

Revival of this art form can solely be attributed to two artists.

In 1954, Chitracharya Padmashree Upendra Marathi, single handedly took the initiative to revive this dying art form. He got the idea to portray Tikuli art on glazed hardboard during his stay in Japan, where traditional motifs on colorful hardboard were being commercially sold.

Mr Ashok Kumar Biswas, Tikuli craftsman who almost single handedly revived the dying art form.

Artist, craftsman, and painter Shree Ashok Kumar Biswas took Tikuli art to a whole new level. He, along with his wife Shibani Biswas, not only revived the art but also developed it into a source of livelihood. Tikuli art now serves as an economic beneficiary for over 300 women in Bihar. The noble efforts of the Biswas and the workmanship of these women are nationally and internationally acclaimed. In 2012, he was selected to participate in the Bihar Divas Celebrations organized in Delhi and Jaipur. He was also assigned the task of explaining the subtle art of Tikuli to the visitors of the International Fair held in Seoul.

MAKING OF TIKULI ART

Making Tikuli art is a delicate and tedious process. To simplify it, I have divided it into three steps:

  1. Tikuli artists use hardboard to create paintings. The hardboard is cut into various shapes like circular, rectangular, triangular, or square.
  2. Four-five coats of enamel are applied thereafter on the cut wooden piece. After every coat the wood is rubbed with sandpaper thus giving it a polished surface.
  3. After the final coat of enamel is applied, the design is made with paint. It is also embellished with gold foil and jewels.

Tikuli art also uses Madhubani motifs in its paintings. It exemplifies the art and it is always a wonderful feeling to see two exceptionally brilliant art forms together in one frame.

Beautiful juxtaposition of Tikuli and Madhubani art.

Spring and summer season are the most suitable for making this art as the craft requires dry air at room temperature due to usage of enamel paints. Squirrel or sable hair is used to make the brushes and the size range varies from 0.0-20.

THEMES

Tikuli art as a product is more popular as export, rather than as something of cultural significance. The aim of the products is to showcase Indian culture to the rest of the world. The themes mostly revolve around festivals of Bihar, Indian wedding scenes, and Krishna Leela.

Tikuli art sold as a wall hanging.

 

Costers and wall hangings with beautiful Tikuli art on them are hugely popular exports.


If you love stories then read along. Let us take you to the vivid world of scroll paintings! Here you will find paintings that would have you falling in love with the art that tells you the story as much as the story itself. Welcome to the world of Cheriyal Art!

 

 Cheriyal scroll painting depicting Indian Myth

               Cheriyal scroll painting depicting Indian Myth

 

 Types of Cheriyal art scrolls depicting different types of stories.

   Types of Cheriyal art scrolls depicting different types of stories.

Originated from the village of Cheriyal, 85 km from Warangal district of Telangana, Cheriyal scroll painting is a version of Nakashi art rich in Indian mythology motifs. Painted in a narrative format like that of a comic strip, Cheriyal art depicts stories from the Puranas and Epics. While they bear some resemblance to Madhubani paintings, they are intensely infused with local flavour that creates the uniqueness in Cheriyal art of storytelling.

Each Cheriyal Scroll painting is drawn on a khadi cloth opening with a piece of Lord Ganesha, followed by Goddess Saraswati. It’s way adopted by the artists to pay respect to the deities and seeking their blessings.

The technique of cheriyal scroll painting would tell you about the sophistication level as firstly they begin with applying a paste of tamarind seed along with tree gum and white clay. After applying three coats of this paste and allowing it to dry for a day or two, the scroll is finally ready for the further procedures. Now the artist draws the outline using a squirrel haired brush. Next is the turn for the predetermined colouring system. The red colour fills the background and blue and yellow colours are used for Gods and Goddesses respectively. While brown and darker shades are used for demons and pink skin tones are used for depicting humans.

Earlier natural dyes were used which were obtained from grounded sea shells, turmeric, vegetables etc. While today natural dyes are largely replaced by organic watercolors which are mixed with tree gum before applying on the scrolls. These paints are said to last over 300 years provided they don’t come in contact with water.

 D.Vaikuntham working on Cheriyal Art

        D.Vaikuntham working on Cheriyal Art

Today D.Vaikuntham’s family is only to practice the cheriyal art form, they have continued the Cheriyal tradition since the 15th century. They are the true masters of art form in this era. Apart from making the scroll paintings, the art has got a modified version of making masks in the same colour pattern and same themes of depicting the Indian mythologies as well. Due to the trouble of fitting in the modern world, the artists are forced to modify the art form.

The modified version of Cheriyal art as a mask

    The modified version of Cheriyal art as a                                                mask

Adapting the modern global changes is a major challenge for ancient art forms. It makes it difficult for them to breathe in with so many alternatives and replacements around but Cheriyal Art continues to survive. Ergo, an ancient tradition has been preserved with passion and zeal overflowing to keep it alive today and for coming generation!


Content researched by Shivanki and written by Sakshi Jain

Karnataka tableau at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi featured Bidriware and Bidri artisans from Bidar.

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org

A handicraft which recognizes itself as the symbol of Wealth. The term Bidriware originates from the township of Bidar. It’s a chief center for the manufacture of the unique metalware. Due to a striking inlay artwork, Bidriware is also primal export handicraft. The metal utilized is blackened alloy of Zinc and Copper inlaid. Along with thin sheets of pure silver (99%), so It never tarnishes during oxidization.

Artisans anticipate that soil of Bidar is away from sunlight & rain for years and Therefore, it has great oxidizing properties. The metal extract in the soil makes it more unique. The artisans also say that “the real art lies in testing the mud which is necessary for making its article. Artisans taste it by their tongue and then decide whether to use it or not.” This knack comes from experience is passes on to next generation.

Image Source: https://lbb.in/bangalore

Bidriware origins in ancient Persia. It came to India by the followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The art developed in the kingdom is intermingled with Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries and mixes with the local styles. Thus a unique style of its own was born as Bidriware.

In particular, one of the oldest records of origins of Bidriware is that of Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran. He was invited by the Sultan Ahmed Shah Bahmani for decorating royal palaces and courts.  Kaiser joined hands with local craftsmen and give birth to Bidriware under the rule of second Sultan Alauddin Bahmani. The art expands markedly and handed over to succeeding generation with time.

Fortunately, today also we can enjoy its exclusivity. The craft has been handed down to succeeding generations. Mostly among the local Muslim and Lingayat sects. The general artifacts made are vases, huqa bases, jewelry, bowls. These artifacts are incredible sovereign of the Indian Heritage.

Image Source: http://kaveriponnapa.com/

Persons and Organizations 

1. 700 artisans, including a few women in Bidar city, still continue to create Bidriware artifact.

2. Anees Ahmed  is succeeding his family tradition and still working as bidri artisan http://www.craftrevival.org/

3.  Rehaman Patel – An artist based in Gulbarga has done an extensive research in Bidri Art collecting all evidence historical background of bidri.

4. Victoria and Albert Museum in London also have some collection on Bidriware.

 

Image Source: https://lbb.in/delhi

Bidriware Museums: To encourage the Bidri artwork many Exhibitions and Museums has been established. Some of these are as follows:

1. SalarZang Museum, Hyderabad

2. National Museum, New Delhi

3. Indian Museum, New Delhi

4.District Archaeology and Museum, Nizamabad.

5. Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay.

 


“In art, man reveals himself and not his objects”, Rabindranath Tagore on art and artisans.

Art is the language of culture and the artist is the poet. The true intricacies and beauty of art can be seen in the hands of the artisans, who put their soul into making a single piece of work. All art forms around the world have their own story to tell. But unfortunately for some of them, the audience is unable to lend a listening ear. As a result, many of our traditional art forms are now on the verge of fading away. We, at Nazariya, are working to promote these dying art forms and to restore the artisans their pride and dignity, which they once enjoyed.

 

Wood carving artisan

Mr Laxman Bhatt- wood carving artist

” I am an artist and I am proud of it. I started at an early age, with the talent
inherited from my ancestors. With my slow and steady efforts, I honed my skills in
carving. The piece of wood and my passion to keep giving shape to my imagination
motivated me throughout.”

Lifestyles have changed so rapidly that our traditional crafts and art forms have been consigned to the archives, dying slowly with each new generation being brought up unaware about our cultural heritage. Lack of funding to globalisation, a lot can be attributed to the decline of art. As a result of this, the millennials are mostly unaware of the art forms that make up our rich cultural heritage. Even people who wish to know more about them, find it difficult to do so. All that they are left with are trips to museums and libraries, which provide only half the picture.

kinnera artisan

The Kinnera; a string instrument played by the Chenchu tribe and which is on the verge of dying. To read more about this click here.

One of the reasons why traditional art forms are dying is because the children of these artisans no longer want to carry on their ancestral art. The technicalities behind these arts are passed on to the younger generation and the knowledge is mostly confined to the same family or clan. Since machine-made art is cheaper and cost-effective, the age-old traditions have faced a backlash. Even though traditional art forms require huge commitment and dedication, these artisans seldom get enough recognition and financial support. This leads the youth to abandon traditional arts making it a major factor in their decline. Nazariya helps them by giving them a bigger platform and an engaging audience to work with. As soon as the market for traditional art forms improves, then money would automatically flow.

So, there is need to bridge the gap between the urban and the rural. While traditional art forms flourish in villages, they do not have an urban outreach. Consequently, Nazariya provides these artists with a platform to showcase their work and helps in building connections with the urban market. By being a part of Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016, we have, thus, taken our mission to a new level. We are not simply a storefront for selling paintings and art & crafts, our aim is to build deeper interactions between the customer and the artisans. In addition, we also organise regular workshops, where visitors can have face-to-face interaction with the craftsman. After all, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “true art must be evidence of happiness, contentment and purity of its authors.” And to revive the art, we need to provide opportunities for the artist.

Given below is a list of some artisans and the art they specialise in.

ARTISANS

  • Mr Laxman Bhatt; Wood Carving
  • Mr Shankar Lal Bhopa; Phad and Miniature Painting
  • Mr Harekrishna Parida; Coir Toy Making
  • Ram Pal Singh; Braj ki Sanjhi
  • Mr. Chandan; Dhokra Metalsmith
  • Mr. Dilip Shyam; Gond Art
  • Mr. Abdul Rehman; Arabic Calligrapher
  • Kayakalp; Puppetry
  • Kreeda Games; Traditional Indian Games
  • Mr. Menon; Jambili Athon

In order to read more about various artisans and their work, click here.

 


Join Nazariya at Sargaalaya as we rediscover our Artistic Heritage Together


Sargaalaya, the Kerala Arts and Crafts village in Kerala, is an initiative of the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala. It is an exclusive place where you can not only pick a product fashioned by the traditional artisans of Kerala but also learn one or two lessons in the subtleties of crafts-making. While designed as a tourist destination, Sargaalaya is also a platform for exhibition, sales, and craft-making. The tourist can have face-to-face interaction with the artisans showcasing their life-long achievements, and maybe learn a thing or two!

We, at Nazariya, focus on building a platform where you can not only purchase unique handmade products, but also discover the behind-the-scenes of who makes them, what their story is, and experience their journey in a way you could have never imagined before. Our aim is to provide a platform to the artisans and help them showcase their talents and handiwork to the masses. We also organize workshops to allow the people to gain better insight into how the artist’s mind works, what nuances go into making a single piece of craft, and help them learn a few basics themselves.

The core values of Sargaalaya and Nazariya are the same; revisiting art forms. The only difference is that we focus more on how to revive dying forms of art around the world. The thought is the same but the thinkers are different.

Given below are some art forms that Nazariya would be focusing on presenting at Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016.

 

  1. Wood Carving

“Exquisite Wood Craft from Amer, Rajasthan. Available on our website.”

Wood carving is a form of woodworking done by a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel in two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, to make a wooden figure or figurines of deities, like Buddha and Ganesha. It originated in Rajasthan in the 17th century. Intricately carved wooden doors and windows in palaces and havelis are testimonies to its popularity in the medieval era. In fact, even today this craft is practised extensively in various parts of Rajasthan.

 

  1. Phad Painting

“Ethnic tribal royalty painting in Rajasthan.”

http://i0.wp.com/www.artnindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/img046.jpg?fit=995,1000

Phad painting is a style religious scroll painting and folk painting practised in Rajasthan, state of India. Phad painting is traditionally done on a large piece of cloth or Canvas known as Phad. The paintings are the life of two legendary Rajasthani heroes, Pabuji and Devnarayan ji, who are worshipped as the incarnation of lord Vishnu and Laxman. While the story is narrated using songs and dance, the visual impact is provided by the phad.

  1. Miniature Painting

“Radha and Krishna as depicted in a miniature painting.”

http://www.dollsofindia.com/images/products/miniature-paintings/miniature-painting-CU12_l.jpg

Miniature paintings are beautiful handmade paintings which are often vibrantly colored, but as the name suggests, very small in size. Also, very intricate and detailed work goes into making them, which further gives them a unique identity. The art of miniature painting was introduced in India by the Mughals, who brought this art form from Persia. Here, the themes mainly depicted are court scenes, gardens, forests, palaces, stories of Lord Krishna, love scenes, and battles.

   4. Puppetry

“Kathputlis in Rajasthan.”

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-VQPlWd3eee8/UOcMCyTA8aI/AAAAAAAAUy0/qIhxNf7pDqQ/s1600/Kathputli Dance, Rajasthan.jpg

Puppetry has always held an important place in traditional entertainment. Like traditional theatre, themes for puppet theatre are mostly based on epics and legends. Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity, and regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them. Like the string puppets from Rajasthan are known as Kathputli, similarly string puppets of Orissa are known as Kundhei, and puppets from Tamil Nadu known as Bommalattam.

   5. Gond Art

“Tribal Gond art”

http://www.artribal.com/img/dummies/t3.jpg

Gond Art is a reflection of India’s largest Adivasi community called Gonds in Bhopal. It is the art of stories, the art of spirituality and is believed to bring good luck. The Gonds were storytellers who used to narrate the stories glorifying the king and this was the main source of their livelihood. The Gonds painted their walls with lively portrayals of local flora and fauna and gods and the art form is created by putting together dots and lines. Here the artists use colours developed by charcoal, plants sap, cow dung and leaves.

The passion and heart that the artisans put into creating these art forms are what distinguish them truly. Every art form has a deep history, a deeper soul, and this year at Sargaalaya International Art and Craft Festival, Nazariya is going to help voice their stories.

“Let’s live history together”


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Somok Roy

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Bhaskar Chitrakar painting a traditional theme. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

Characterized by fluid curves and flat bright colours, Kalighat painting occupies an important place in the history of Indian art. It was the urban and reformed version of the Midnapore school of Patachitra, a scroll painting tradition of Bengal.  Liberating itself from the confines of religious narratives, it went on to comment on the contemporary socio-political phenomena. The rustic folk simplicity was replaced by the emerging complexities of city life.

In the early 19th Century, rural patuas (the community of Patachitra painters traditionally carried the surnames ‘Patua’ and ‘Chitrakar’) from Midnapore migrated and settled around the Kalighat temple, on the banks of Adi Ganga. Kalighat being a major pilgrimage center attracted thousands of devotees round the year.

The devotees wanted to carry something as souvenirs on their way back from this sacred place, and the locally available, cheap paper painting was the only affordable option. In the memoirs and travelogues of the European travelers, these paintings have been called ‘Bazaar paintings,’ a description that carries a sense of inferiority when compared with the Occidental standards of art.

This is primarily because the painters lacked the sense of perspective, and the linear rhythm of human figures miserably failed to impress the lovers of realism. Kalighat painters faced draconian competition from the ever-expanding market of lithographs and cheap oleographs and gradually disappeared by the 1930s.

The Midnapore roots

The medium of scroll painting has a vibrant history in this part of the continent. In an age when the society and economy were primarily agrarian, bards toured from village to village with their painted scrolls, unfolding the world of Puranic epics and folk myths to the curious audience.

These demonstrations were accompanied by narrative songs. The Cherial paintings of Andhra Pradesh, Phadpaintings of Rajasthan, and Patachitras of Bengal and Orissa are part of this vivid and arresting storytelling tradition. Patuas of Midnapore used scrolls known as ‘jorano pat,’ which were executed on cloth and could be rolled easily.

There were divisions within the patua community on the basis of the duration of tours. The ‘Duari patuas’ travelled from door to door throughout the day in nearby villages and returned home by night. The ‘Doori patuas’ travelled long distances, exhibiting their works and narrating stories.  The themes were from folk literature. Episodes from the ‘Mangal kavyas,’ creation myths, magic and cult-rituals, agrarian lives, pantheistic practices such as ‘pahar puja,’ and Hindu epics were painted and sung.

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style. (Unfolding a Painted World: Revisiting Kalighat Paintings)

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style.

From Midnapore to the Mecca of arts

Initially, the Kalighat school produced images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, keeping in mind the target audience. The rolling scrolls were replaced by rectangular sheets. Cheap mill made paper was used for painting, but the painters retained the tradition of using natural colours.

The outlines were painted in black using lampblack, which was later filled in with bright flat colours. Turmeric was used for yellow, red chilies for red, indigo for blue and so on… The paintings acquired a semi-classical finesse due to the application of colloidal tin for the purpose of depicting jewellery.

Secular themes entered the painters’ world soon and Kalighat school emerged as a satirical genre, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of the society. Their detailed observation of an evolving social class helped them to produce symbolisms in art, which could be interpreted as important sources of modern Indian history.

The flamboyant Bengali nouveau riche or the urban elite has been the favorite theme of the Kalighat painters for their ostentatious display and extravagant lifestyle. These paintings unveil the pretentious mannerisms of the nouveau riche by the use of subtle metaphors and visual allegories, which have become an integral part of the Kalighat iconography over time.

Kalighat painting is perhaps one of the best primary sources to reconstruct the social history of the19th Century ‘Babu culture’ which flourished in Calcutta. ‘Babu indulging in sensuous pleasures with courtesans’, ‘Babu sitting on a chair and piping the hookah,’ ‘cat with the marks of a saint eating fish,’ ‘horse-race,’ ‘Elokeshi-Mohanto crime case’ were some popular themes.

kalighatpainting1

Babu with a concubine. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

The painting of a young attractive lady sitting in voluptuous posture with her right hand raised above her head, holding a rose in each hand, titled ‘Golapsundari’ is an evidence of the eternal fact that the essence of Indian aesthetics flows down the ages evermore.

Gopalsundari, or the 'rose beauty'. Photo credit: Nibaran Chandra Ghosh/banglapedia.org Drawing Woman with roses; Kalighat painting by Nibaran Chandra Ghosh of a seated courtesan with roses. Calcutta, ca. 1900. Nibaran Chandra Ghosh Calcutta Ca. 1900 Watercolour on paper

Gopalsundari, or the ‘rose beauty’. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

Similar ‘nayikas’ have been painted earlier by miniature painters of North India. The patuas also painted nationalist heroes like Rani Lakshmi Bai, and scenes from everyday life.

The Ultimate Autumn

The legendary painter, art critic and scholar, Mukul Dey, who collected some priceless works of the Kalighat school ( a major part of it was acquired by art historian W.G Archer during 1930s, and many of these paintings are exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) wrote in 1932 :

These pictures have now entirely vanished. The artist craftsmen are nearly all dead, and their children have taken up other business. In the place of these hand-drawn and hand-painted pictures selling at two or four pice each, garish and evil-smelling lithographs and oleographs – quite appalling in their hideousness – have come. The old art is gone forever – the pictures are now finding their last asylum in museums and art collections as things of beauty which we cannot let die.

Kalighat paintings

A contemporary take on traditional icons. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

One of the last practitioners of this art to have received international recognition and critical acclaim is Kalam Patua. He reinvented the Kalighat style by painting contemporary themes and yet retaining the stylized pattern of the traditional works. His paintings are housed in galleries and museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium, etc..

The alleys and by-lanes of Kalighat buzz with life from the dawn-break. But practically none of the residents and shop-owners are aware of the rich painting tradition which once flourished here. I accidentally met the only custodian of this great tradition, residing in the vicinity of the temple, Bhaskar Chitrakar, who is arduously trying to revive the art form. His unflagging efforts do not seek beneficial opportunities, but the admiration and appreciation of a true ‘rasik’.


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Ayesha Ibrahim
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A selection of traditional Baluchi dresses. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan is home to many amazing handiworks but the Balochi embroidery deserves a special mention. According to different sources the Balochi embroidery is regarded as an ancient handicraft that passes from one generation of women to the succeeding. The craft is native to the barren lands of Balochistan celebrating nomadic lifestyle.

Shezad Baloch, a journalist at the Express Tribune quotes Faheem Baloch, a lecturer at the University of Balochistan in a 2012 article, ‘most of the motifs and designs of Balochi embroidery have been inspired by nature, some of the patterns take inspiration from the pottery of the Mehrgarh civilization, one of the oldest civilizations of the world, which once existed in the Bolan district of Balochistan’.

This increases the importance that the craft holds as it points towards an intact cultural practice.

A traditional Balochi shalwar kameez. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A traditional Balochi shalwar kameez. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The craft basically belongs to women as artisans and also as a wearer. It is said that Balochi women practice the embroidery every day to keep their skills polished. Although machine embroidery is also now available but handcrafted and customized shirts (kameez) hold more value.

The embroidery covers the front of the kameez, along-with the cuffs of the sleeves and shalwar (open trousers). Bright-colored threads, tiny mirrors, and stitching are part and parcel of the final product.

Different regions of Balochistan have their own distinct designs indicating relevance to a particular tribe. For instance, the Kalat district is known for its kalati embroidery, whereas, periwal, jalar, kapuk and naal are a product of Mekran division. Different types of stitches are used in the embroidery which are geometrically organized related to a location or may even relate to a woman’s current situation.

‘A mother who has lost her only son might refrain from using certain stitches in her embroidery, while a widow will be identified by the use of simple threads.’ (Humsheri.org, in a 2015 article). Common motifs used are arrows, chicken feet, diamonds and flowers.

Hand embroidery is not only famous nationally, but is revered in the Gulf countries. The most extravagant dresses are made for the brides; which can sell for as much as Rs 70,000 and could take several months to a year to complete. Simple everyday wear is quiet affordable to the extent that many believe the women responsible for producing such work of art are not being given their due share for the hard work.

References:

  • Baloch, S. (2012). Balochi ensembles: the threads of time. The Express Tribune, http://tribune.com.pk/story/354506/balochi-ensembles-the-threads-of-time/ retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.
  • Hum Shehri. 2015. Pashk. http://humshehri.org/culture/pashk/ retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.
  • Embroidery. Asia InCH Encylopedia. The Craft Revival Trust. UNESCO. http://www.craftrevival.org/CraftArtDetails.asp?CountryCode=Pakistan&CraftCode=003468  retrieved 29th October 2016, 3:00pm.

This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Roshini Muralidhara

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The toys are made from ivory wood that is grown in old parts of the  Mysore region, and are exported worldwide. Photo credit: Pee Vee/Flickr

Karnataka is a land rich in art and history.  Many craft traditions in the state have been passed on from generations and this progression has helped support a variety of handicrafts. One such tradition that has gained immense popularity is the art of lacquerware toys in the town of Channapatna, a city located 60 kilometers southwest of Bengaluru, in the Ramnagara district.

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Channapatna toys  in their various forms. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

This art’s origin can be traced back to the reign of Tipu Sultan who had summoned artisans from Persia to train the local craftsmen in the making of wooden toys. For over two decades, ivory wood  wood has been used prominently; occasionally rosewood, sandalwood, cedar, pine and teak are also utilized.

This traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication under the World Trade Organization, regulated by the government of Karnataka, and are featured in every major handicraft exhibition in India.

During her January 2015 visit to India, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, was so impressed by these toys that now they adorn the shelves of the White House!

The first cultural tableau at the 66th Repulic Day parade at Rajpath was from Karnataka. Photo credit: Screengrab

The first cultural tableau at the 66th Repulic Day parade at Rajpath was from Karnataka. Photo credit: Screengrab

Owing to the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is known as ‘Gombegala Ooru’ (Toy Town or Land of Toys) of Karnataka.

Wood for the process is acquired from the local tree of Aale-Mara (Wrightia tinctoria). Artisans follow the traditional method of handicraft which involves lacquering.The initial step of the toy making process is procuring wood from the local markets.

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The various chisels used in the toy making. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

The wooden planks are seasoned for two to three months based on their size. Then, they are mounted on a lathe machine and are cut into various shapes using different types of chisels.

Once the required shapes are achieved, they are rubbed with sand paper for smoothening and then are pressed with a lacquer stick, for the eventual gleam. The toys are then pruned, carved and coloured using vegetable dyes. Finally, the product is given a polish.

These toys manufactured using fine quality seasoned wood, vegetable dyes and smooth edges are known to be one of the safest.

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Artisans chisel out the toys for that smooth finish. Photo credit: Sandip Bose/caleidoscope.in

The toy making industry is  majorly a small-scale industry. Even though the state government has established large-scale lacquerware craft complexes with training institutes, local skilled artisans have studios in their homes. Even though this industry earlier faced a stiff competition from Chinese toy makers, it is back in demand with export ordrs from Europe and America,.

These local artisans are benefited by a number of non-governmental organizations and private companies such as Microsoft (India) who provide them with designs that are contemporary and have global standards to produce world-class toys.

Though these skilled workers do not make a lot of money in the process, their knowledge of the craft and job satisfaction was pretty apparent when I visited one such workshop.

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The end product of the industry is a variety of wooden toys ranging from dolls to spinning tops (called Buguri locally), trains, bullock-carts, small vintage cars, mathematical games, puzzles etc.. Photo credit: Hari Prasad Nadig via Flickr


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Sayana Dutta

Jute, the 'golden fibre' being cultivated. Photo credit: brieencounter.wordpress

Jute, the ‘golden fibre’, being cultivated. Photo credit: brieencounter.wordpress

In the 1800s, large sheds along both the banks of the of Hooghly River in and around Kolkata and Howrah with rumbling sounds of heavy machines mixing with the soft mellifluous flow of the river producing yarns from raw jute was a common sight.

A steady workforce was employed to work on separating, sorting and preparing jute yarns in various jute factories and mills supporting a bustling population of the city and dealing with extensively cultivated ‘pat’ plant in Bengal, from where raw jute would be extracted.

Bundled jute being left to soak in water.

Bundled jute being left to soak in water. Photo credit: Screengrab

After cotton, jute was the next cheap fabric material readily produced exclusively in the Indian sub-continent and was on the verge of an industrial revolution as the country catered to export demands mainly for the purpose of making sacks and cordage.

But the same mills now stand in deafening silence.

Wrong decisions taken decades ago actually crumbled the foundation of this once-strong and promising industry. The then communist government refused to supply sacks to nations that were engaged in World Wars, citing wars as imperialistic.

Thus, a golden opportunity was lost.

A jute processing plant in Kolkata. Photo credit: jute-india.com

A jute processing plant in Kolkata. Photo credit: jute-india.com

Entrepreneurs state that the situation was made worse by the growing demands and various trade unions with wrong expectations. The murder of the CEO of Northbrook Jute Mill H K Maheshwari in Hooghly in 2014 put thousands of permanent and temporary workers out of a livelihood

The insecurity among the owners and entrepreneurs is apparent. Other than assurance, little has been provided to the enthusiasts by the governments, and attempts to resuscitate this industry have so far remained dormant.

Fortunately now, a handful of non-governmental organisations have taken the onus upon themselves to find new avenues to generate livelihoods for different sections of the society, and to exhibit what all can be done with the fiber.

Attractive jute products on display at an exhibition. Photo credit: bestjuteproducts.wordpress

Attractive jute products on display at an exhibition. Photo credit: bestjuteproducts.wordpress

One such group is Freeset bags that works with impoverished women from the red light areas for a new way to support themselves and their families. They have experimented with carry bags that are chic-looking and stylish, as this fabric can be dyed, bent and styled as per a designer’s wish.

There are some other boutiques that have derived the art of making handloom material for sarees, table cloths, curtains and carpets or upholstery giving them a distinct look. Just the way plastic had replaced jute, now with more awareness regarding the preservation of environment, a slow reverse phenomena is being observed since jute is a highly bio-degradable and eco-friendly material.

With the smaller groups showing interest, the government is gradually in the process of realizing the importance of reviving this industry.

A government advertisement promoting jute as the 'gift of the earth'. Photo credit: jute.com

A government advertisement promoting jute as the ‘gift of the earth’. Photo credit: jute.com

The National Jute Policy was launched in 2005 after the Government of India realized the importance of the fiber. Bengal is the primary producer of the fabric;  whereas states such as Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tripura, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have mill facilities for the production across the country.

With the revival of industry, not only shall we pave ways to provide employment to our youth at different levels but also make ways for a cleaner and greener way of living allowing the nurturing of art in the form of handicrafts as well as utilitarian items.