Traditional glory

Amrita Prasad
Tuesday, 24 April 2018

We chat up craftsmen who are conducting summer workshops 
at Hands On Studios in the city till May 6

In an attempt to introduce Punekars to traditional Indian art forms, Hands On Studios has organised master artisan-led summer workshop where you can learn Gond art, Bengal Pattachitra, Madhubani and Lippan Kaam from traditional artists. The workshop, which is on till May 6 in Baner, Shivajinagar and Koregaon Park, will see Hiraman Urweti from Bhopal, Manoranjan Chitrakar from Naya West Bengal, Ratneshwar Jha from Madhubani Bihar and Gani Mara from Bhuj Gujarat help you get a hands-on experience in these art forms. 

You will get to know the origin, culture and natural materials/techniques and typical motifs in which the art form is executed traditionally. You will also get to create your own artworks that will be applied on a product to create new era products and accessories. On the final day, you will get to complete your self executed artworks with the help of the master artisan, assemble your products and display them. 
Here’s chatting up the artists:  

Of clays and mirrors 
Gani Mara, an award-winning Lippan artist from Gujarat, who is conducting the workshop, says the Lippan Kaam or art has evolved over the century and now artists are trying to keep it alive by choosing the modern route. “Lippan Kaam, the traditional clay art from Gujarat, was mostly executed by women in the Kutch area. In order to decorate and beautify their homes, women used mud and cow dung to create motifs on the walls (both inside and outside) of their bhungis (huts). It is also called clay relief work. Various communities in Kutch do mud-relief work and have their own distinct style of Lippan Kaam,” says Mara who has been involved in the art form for about two decades now. The bhungis are also decorated with mirror works. Mara’s nephews and daughters, some of whom are also studying, and are interior designers, have taken up the art form. 

The artisan who has been awarded with Kutch Shakti Award in Mumbai, says that now the art form is mostly done on walls and people in the cities want them as a wall decor items. “We use clay, adhesive and colours to make them look more attractive. To add a modern twist, we resor to graphics. The traditionally done Lippan Kaam wasn’t durable and would require a lot of maintenance and touch-ups annually. Now they are made to be water-proof and durable,” he adds.  

Mara, who is grateful to the government for its support in promoting the art form, says that there is a big demand for Lippan Kaam in city-based homes, Army and Navy offices, corporates hotels etc. “I created a huge wall art using Lippan at Wipro office in Bengaluru (then Bangalore) back in 2001. These days, a lot of resorts ask us to make traditional bhungis and create Lippan in the traditional way,” he concludes.

A canvas of stories
Pattachitra is one of the ancient art forms of West Bengal and Odisha. Here, mythological stories and songs are depicted through paintings. The Pattachitra art is vibrant and full of detailing. Says Manoranjan Chitrakar, an artisan who has been practising Bengal Pattachitra, since at age of 10, “Pattachitra literally means cloth painting ‘pata’ (cloth), and ‘chitra’ (painting) and these are done using natural colours. Although, traditionally, the stories are about Lord Krishna, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata etc and the episodes from the lives of gods and goddesses, of late, the artists have begun to depict the modern day stories and issues like 9/11, tsunami, environmental issues, women empowerment and so on,” says Chitrakar whose children take keen interest in learning their ancestral art form. 

When asked about the difference between Bengal’s and Odisha’s Pattachitra, the 45-year-old artist says, “In Bengal, we tell stories of different gods and goddess and depict them through paintings, however, in Odisha’s style of Pattachitra, only Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and Balaram are depicted -- there isn’t any defined story-telling in it.”  

Chitrakar who has conducted workshops on Pattachitra and has exhibited his work across India and a few parts of the world, is grateful to the Union and state government for their support. Talking about how the urban population looks at Pattachitra, he says, “The response is amazing. It is really encouraging for us to see the excitement among people living in big cities and their interest in understanding Pattachitra. They want to own one and proudly display it in their home,” he adds.

A tribal touch
“Gond art is an age-old art from and has been passed down from one generation to the next. Although my parents and siblings are into agriculture, I found Gond art quite a fascination and I’m really proud to be able to carry it on and make it accessible to people who can’t visit Madhya Pradesh and see the art in its traditional form,” says Hiraman Urweti, a Gond artist  from Bhopal. 

According to Urweti, Gond paintings are made using clay, cow dung, coloured soil, colours extracted from flowers and is practised a tribe named Gond. “During festivals like Deepawali and special occasions like weddings, the walls are decorated with murals in the shape of our deity, animals, birds, trees, and fields etc while singing the folk songs. But sadly, people forgetting about this rich tradition and to be able to keep the artform alive we are trying to keep ourselves abreast with trends and demands. To make it more accessible, we are doing on canvas using acrylic colours.  Earlier,  we used vegetable colours, leaves of flat beens to extract green colours, flowers for red and pink, geru mitti, black mitti, piruri mitti for white colour. The huts were purified using cow dung,” says Urweti who has been doing Gond paintings for 20 years now. 

Urweti is thankful to the artform because it lets him travel and meet prominent people in India and abroad.

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