The Dhokra artists use wax effectively to produce stunning artefacts.

The tribals of Odisha craft out a lifestyle to the beat of ancient rhythms, in the process creating amazing works of artistry which touch even the most mundane and utilitarian object of every day use. Such as stunning weaves woven on basic looms, dyed blood red from the roots of the aal tree, sawaii grass morphed into gilded basketry and mats, terracotta toys of great beauty depicting humans in a circle of tight embrace.

Or tiny bits of old brass, zinc, copper and tin transformed into the poetry that is Oriya Dhokra art.

Golden hued, with typical thread like lines running on the surface or forming jaali work, celebrating motifs of birds, flowers and the sun, Dhokra art leaves its imprints on tribal lifestyle products from cooking and storage utensils and boxes to gods and goddesses, ritual and religious artefacts and jewellery. The casting combines metallurgical skills with the lost wax technique reaching back in antiquity to Mohenjadaro’s famousdancing girl.

Anand Bhol of Chandrapada village usually sits with his entire family opposite his house crafting dhokra artefacts and jewellery. He buys old bits of brass, copper and tin from the market and makes an alloy by melting it. Now in Chennai for an exhibition he demonstrates the art of creating the fine metal threads which embellish Oriya dhokra ware. “We buy thin iron pipes or rods and put bees wax around it. We pour molten brass alloy into the tube and when it solidifies we break the brass mould. The thin brass threads are now used to cover entire or partial surfaces of a box, vessel or pendant.”

The pendant itself is created through an elaborate process which involves making a clay replica with surface decoration, etc., which is implanted on a wooden board. The clay pendant is covered with wax coating which takes its shape and design. Once the wax solidifies, the wooden board and clay covering are removed leaving a cavity.

Molten alloy is now poured in and allowed to set, after which the wax is removed through firing. Last minute detailing is now done. The iron threads are often cut into tiny pieces to make florets for a chain or to form the entire chain itself, interspaced with beads, silk thread work baubles etc.

Anand Bhol’s dhokra work and jewellery are on view at ‘The Tribal Jewellery and Artefacts Exhibition’ which opens in the city today. Korapat tribal saris and classic ikkats in lyrical combinations are also showcased at the exhibition for a total Odisha experience. A large range of block prints is also on offer.

‘The Tribal Jewellery and Artefacts Exhibition’ has been brought by Bhuvaneshwar-based NGO Anvesha. Four NGO’S have showcased their collection at the exhibition which is on at ‘Sangini’, 46 Ashwin Apartmants, opposite IDBI Bank, CP Ramaswami, Alwarpet, till November 20.

Keywords: Odisha craft