A Traditional Walk Through Artforms At The Brink of Extinction

A Traditional Walk Through Artforms At The Brink of Extinction

The fast-paced lifestyle changes are taking a toll on traditional crafts and handicrafts. Indigenous crafts and artforms are at the brink of extinction because of the time and effort required to practice traditional crafts. In addition to that, the decreasing number of skilled artisans and fewer craft buyers is leading to crafts on a path to extinction. A few crafts in India are facing an extinction crisis.

Kavad: The stories of Mewar

Kavad: The stories of Mewar- A Traditional Walk Through Artforms At The Brink of Extinction
Credit: Srishti Singh

Kavad is one of the artforms at the brink of extinction. It is a wooden box that is a portable temple. Kavad is a skillful amalgam of carpentry, painting, and narration. Traditionally there were three communities practising kavad, the Suthars who would make the wooden boxes, the chitrakars would adorn the colorful story over the box, and the Kavadiya Bhat who would indeed recite the story using the box. Also, Jajman or patrons were individuals who would commission and consume these stories accordingly. The Kadadiya Bhat recites the tale, opening the panels one by one in a sequence forming a story.

For instance, the stories are from the Ramayan, Mahabharat, or Puranas and local folk tales about the semi-divine heroes, saints, and patrons. The Kavadiya Bhat narrates the story subsequently with rhythm and dramatic dialogues building the ambiance.

Split ply braiding: Textile without weaving

Split ply braiding: Textile without weaving - A Traditional Walk Through Artforms At The Brink of Extinction
Credit: WordPress.com

Split ply braiding is a textile-making craft practiced along the Thar desert, Rajasthan. It also involves separating the plies of one cord with a latch hook or similar tool, catching a second cord, and pulling it through the gap between the plies of the first. Initially, they made camel girths and animal regalia.

The cords used for split ply braiding were not readily available, hence it was common for individuals to make their own braiding cords. The technique requires high twist cords that use hand-spun goat hair, cotton, linen, silk, rayon, or rug yarn. Nowadays, due to the commercialization of cords and a number of advancements in textiles, jewelry, bags, belts, hats, etc. various innovations have taken place using the split ply braiding techniques. While other artists have explored three-dimensional sculptures and other art pieces. Therefore, it is one of the important textile artforms at the brink of extinction.

Tarkashi Inlay

Tarkashi Inlay
Credit: Direct Create

Tarkashi work (also, one of the artforms at the brink of extinction) is widely seen in the ancient palaces and mahals of Rajasthan. The craft involves the technique of inlaying fine flattened wire of brass copper or silver in wood. Tarkashi work is practiced on the hardwood. However, the motifs include intricate geometric florals and intricate patterns from the Mughal era.

From beautifully inlaid doors with ivory and intricate floral or geometric patterns, subsequently, the artisans made progress with various products like windows, mirror frames, Quran boxes, inlaid boxes, pens and penholders, lanterns and inlaid ornamented shrines and other utility items like trays, plates, spice boxes, etc.

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Mata ni Pachedi: A sacred painted textile

Mata ni Pachedi: A sacred painted textile - A Traditional Walk Through Artforms At The Brink of Extinction
Credit: DirectCreateCommunity

Mata Ni Pachedi expresses the divine cosmic energy of the mother goddess and the unified manifestation of her devotees, followers, flora, and fauna through a painted narrative story. Earlier the nomadic Vaghari community of Gujarat was barred from entering temples. They painted shrines with depictions of the Mother Goddess on cloth as an alternative to adore the goddess, which originated the art of Mata Ni Pachedi.

The major highlight of the Pachedi is the Mother Goddess at the center with other motifs like mythological characters, human figures, musicians, sacrificial animals, and flowers at the sides. The pachedi involves freehand drawing and wooden block printing. Natural pigments are used to fill the motifs when the outline is ready. Support one of the artforms at the brink of extinction.

Saura Painting

Saura Painting
Credit: bradshawfoundation.com

The Saura is a primeval Indian tribe, inhabiting the southern part of Odisha. The tribals are very connected to nature and the narrative of the painting is based on everyday life stories. With simple forms and figures that together compose intricate narratives in very few colors. The painting makes use of red or brown walls as the base and natural dyes extracted from rice, white stone, and flower and leaf extracts. The Saura painting is a mark of respect to the deities. The painting is made during special occasions like harvest, child-birth, marriage, etc, during which they are also worshipped.

Rogan Art: Castor colored pigments

Rogan Art: Castor coloured pigments
Credit: kutchculture

The rare practice of Rogan Art hails from the Khatri community of Nirona Village, Gujarat. Rogan is a form of textile painting which uses a rich, brightly colored paint made from castor oil and natural colors. Firstly, the artisans mix oil and natural color pigments to make the paste. Artisans place a small amount of this pigment paste into their palms.

Heating the pigment by constantly rubbing it. Further transferring the pigment onto the metal rod. Meanwhile, the artisan folds his designs into blank fabric folding the fabric in half thereby printing its mirror image and completing the Rogan painting.  The art makes use of the castor paste pigment, a fabric, and a metal stylus or kalam. Various motifs from historic and folk culture of the Kutch region as used. For Example- Geometric flowers, peacocks, trees of life, etc.

Surpur paintings

Surpur paintings
Credit: https://www.allkarts.com 

Surpur Paintings of the Karnataka region are a part of the Vijayanagara style. The craftsmanship prospered under the reign of two rulers around that time – Immadi Venkatapa Nayaka and Mummadi Venkatapa Nayaka. The present-day Surpur paintings hail from the murals found in the dilapidated mansions and temples of the Yadgir district, Surpur taluk. The motifs cohere mythological and Vedic themes such as the ashtadikpalas or the guardians of eight directions, while other motifs involved the Kings, Noblemen, and the scenery around the era. The Surpur paintings make use of prominent lines in the painting, which is the main highlight of the craft.

Chitrakathi: An audio-visual tale through music and paintings

Chitrakathi: An audio-visual tale through music and paintings
Credit: National Crafts Museum and Hastakala Academy

Chitrakathi is a combination of two words – ‘Chitra’ meaning picture and ‘Katha’, a story. Initially practiced by the nomadic tribe of storytellers through the Maharashtra – Karnataka region. An oral narration of a tale using hand-painted paintings on handmade paper using natural colors. A minimum of 50 paintings forms a pothi or a bundle used to narrate a tale.

The community would travel from village to village and narrate historic or religious stories. An equally important use of bold and thick lines are the characteristic elements of the painting to define the characters. Furthermore, the drawing style is flat that used frontal and profile views. The stereotyped features are the high forehead, a peculiar nose, and a red-lined lip. Finally, the narration of the story was accompanied by the harmonious music of the Vina and the rhythm of the Huduk and Taal.

Let us do our bit to protect these artforms that are at the brink of extinction. Book our masterclasses or art experiences to take a traditional walk with them.

Follow Rajasthan Studio on Instagram for more amazing art and travel content. Reach out to us on email at contact[at]rajasthanstudio[dot]com. This blog is curated by Rajasthan Studio and written by Juzellerodriques.

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