Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tribal Lei Motifs come alive

The carved and inlaid wood carvings are an integral form of Indian handicrafts. This tradition is passed on by master craftsmen through generations. Gods, goddess, devils, demons, animals from nature and mythology all find a place in the wood carvers repertoire.

One interesting aspect that needs to probed further is the wood used. The trees native to the region from where the craftsmen originate are most often used. There are several species of balsa wood, jack wood, matchwood , teaks like honge and mathi apart from rosewood and sandalwood. It is mentioned somewhere in one of the esoteric Vedas that the sculptor, the wood-carver and the potter are usually known as the Creator.

SOM caught up with some wood craftsmen who are participating in Anantha Yatre - a Meet on Tribal and Analogous Cultures at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) at its premises in Wellington House. It will conclude on Aug. 12.

Wood Carving

Artist Lakshman Dugga is a Muria tribal from Bastar region of Chattisgarh. The Muria, a su-bsect of the Gonds, are a forest community. Lakshman Dugga’s work reflects his heritage. You have bamboo and reed flutes, wooden axes and swords as well as animistic representative sculptures. Laskhman has taken part in several demonstration workshops.

Artist Premkumar Dhiman Kangra is from Himachal Pradesh. Kangra Valley in the mountainous Himachal is known in the world of art for its Kangra and Pahari miniature paintings. But there is more to Kangra than daubs of bright colour. There is also a fine tradition of wood carving. Premkumar Dhiman is a renowned wood carver from Tikkar village in Kangra district. The wood he uses is usually pine and walnut and the skeins of veins that run through the wood are used to highlight the features of the sculptures. Premkumar Dhiman’s works in wood are displayed at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal. Premkumar uses the lei motif of mythic figures like Baba Pahadiya in all his carvings.

Artist Gowrishankar and Girish Kumar are wood carvers from Barakote village in Almora district of Uttarkhand. They are what the legendary Jim Corbett called 'Hill Folk' with a history replete in sacred, secular and profane images. The wood used is mainly deodar, pine, teak and walnut and the light toned wood which is burnished into a gentle brown and makes good for strong door frames and windows.

They also carve vases, chillums to smoke rough cigarette, inc-ense holders and wall plaques. They prepare images of the characters from tribal folk myth and beliefs. Other than this they also exhibit their excellence of wood carving skill on doors, door frames and various other household fixtures and objects.

Bamboo Work

Artist Shankar is also a Muria Gond from Bastar ( Chhatisgarh). Shankar specialises in making bamboo flutes and wooden artifacts like axes, swords, plaques.

The Gonds of MP and Chattisgarh form the largest tribal group in the country. They are the true hunter-gatherers who lead a semi-nomadic pastoral life. It is but natural their artistic expressions reflect their lives. Shankar, who is an inspired craftsmen, had taken part in many demonstration workshops across the country.

Artist C.P. Antony from Kerala uses fine slivers of spliced bamboo to create lamp shades, hanging lamp shade and wall clock. Materials used are bamboo and reed.

Traditional Muria Painting

Artist Belugur Mandavi is a Muria from Dindori region of Chattisgarh. The walls of a Muria ghotul and the houses are decorated with vegetable dye paintings of rudimentary animals and men, of hunting scenes and nature motifs. There is a blend of mythology though from a later period. Belugur has participated in many artist camps in Bhopal and other places and his works have been displayed in many exhibitions. His Ghotul series depicts a traditional dormitory with boys and girls (Cheliks and Motiyars respectively) singing while some are playing on musical instruments.

Traditional Bhil Painting

Chowki Work

Artist Ramesh Katara is a Bhil painter from Madhya Pradesh. Like the Gonds, the Bhils too are hunter-pastoral tribes who are spread all over Madhya Pradesh. There is an inborn tendency to paint and the walls of a Bhil hut is always colourful with earth shades of geometric figures and patterns. Ramesh is a self-taught painter who uses his commu-nity’s deep-seated belief in the world of the Gods and demons to create his works of art. Ramesh has painted a sacred hill, Kokkida, which to them is a spiritual centre, much like the various mountains in South India which are supposed to be representative of the various Gods. Ramesh has not been taught painting but his inherent sense of form and colour enable him to compositions whose focal point is the sacred hill to whom at any auspicious ceremony are sacrificed goats and chicken, offered fruits and coconuts.

Madhubani Painting

The playful god Krishna, the heavy dewlaps of cows, gopikas and the blossoming Kadamba are the lei motif of Madhubani paintings. Alka Devi from Mithila (Bihar) uses these motifs to advantage as she shows off her finesse in recreating the mythology and the legend of Madhuban and Vrindaban. Alka narrates the tale of the laughing God Krishna perched on a branch of the Kadamba as the Gopikas stand in the pools, pleading with him to return their clothes. Alka’s son Kanhaiya Kumar helps her in her workshops and thus a tradition is kept alive from generation to generation.

State-awardee Kishore, a traditional wood carver from Shimoga, makes low round tables with their surface top painted in brilliant colours. These are handcrafted tables and the carving seems to be more embossed. Kishore learnt the art by observing and copying his father Narayanappa Chitragar, a well known Chowki artist. But Kishore has now gone beyond the confines of tradition and carves wooden door frames, deities and other objet d'art.

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