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Updated: December 23, 2013 18:32 IST

A leaf out of this book

Rashmika Majumdar
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Pattachitra at the exhibition. Photo: Rashmika Majumdar
Special Arrangement Pattachitra at the exhibition. Photo: Rashmika Majumdar

The Orissa Grameen Mela offers unique handicrafts and handlooms

Folklore, mythology, temples, tribes and the sea inspire the distinct colourful narrative in art from Orissa. Artisans at the ongoing Orissa Grameen Mela offer their unique handicrafts and handlooms.

“When I was a child, my grandparents told me stories of Lord Jagannath, Bhagwan Vishnu and his 10 avatars, Radha and Krishna, and how our ancestors used to live, hunt and play,” says Litu Sahoo, an artisan. “Our paintings are all based on the stories we heard as children, and the ones we will tell our children too. Our art will be alive in this way.”

How to

Sahoo’s art technique involves engraving stories on palm leaves known as the Taala Patra in Odiya. The palm leaves, first washed and dried are cut into thin strips and circular flaps and then stitched together. Using a needle, the paintings are first carved onto the leaf and smeared with a black colour obtained from Kajal.

The leaves are then washed, leaving behind a thin black outline on the edges of the carving. The paintings are then coloured with natural colours made using turmeric, tamarind seeds, rocks, flowers and leaves. The paint is mixed with glue of Bael fruit to make it permanent.

Paintings made on old palm leaves are known to last hundreds of years, the evidence being palm leaf manuscripts- paper to the ancient world. Each circle in a painting is part of the narrative of folklore or a mythological tale. But that’s not all.

Turn the flaps down and you read another story. Turn the flaps up again, and another story waits to be read. One painting thus offers three tales! A distinct colourful style of appliqué work called the Pipilika originated from Pipli in Odisha. The artist stitches appliqué motifs in contrasting colours in the shape of animals, birds, celestial bodies and sets geometrical shapes in aesthetic arrangements on a base cloth. Lord Jagannath, Lord Vinayak, the peacock and the elephant are popular themes.

“During Deepavali and Christmas, Pipilika lamps are hot sellers. We also do mirror work and embroidery on our lamps, purses, umbrellas and letter pads,” says artisan Suresh Kumar Sahu.

Art is not just subsistence or continuing tradition. It also binds the family together and integrates the community. Every member of the household is involved and with teamwork artisans create wonderful pieces that they display with pride. “My father taught me the art of weaving and tie-and-dye. My mother spins yarn on a charkha, my brother dyes the yarn and finally I weave the yarn into cloth,” smiles Bhagawan Sahu from Nuapattana.

The tie-and-dye or Bandha in Orissa is different from the ones found in other parts of the world as the yarn, and not the cloth, is dyed. Threads are then arranged and woven in Ikkat- the vertical, horizontal and diagonal shading effect, Kumbha - the temple pattern, Posapalli — the colourful squares, the Konark wheel and Bomkai with detailed thread work in circular patterns. Silk and cotton saris, kurtis and material in these traditional designs are available.

The sea inspires art in ways beyond our understanding. Ramakant Mallick from Baleshwar believes in utilising every part of an oyster or a shell in one way or another.

“The numerous varieties of shells found on the seabed fascinate me. I think of different ways of using the shells. One part of a Motishankh shell is cut to make bangles, the rest can be used to carve out show pieces, and the remaining can be used for jewellery,” he says.

Dhokra is the tribal art of casting brass using wax moulds which are lost in the process, rendering a unique artefact each time. Rahul Chinaray belongs to the Suriya tribe, one of the 62 tribes which specialise in the Dhokra. “The craftsmanship differs across generations. Brass, copper and silver is used to create decor pieces, pendants and lamps. They tell us about the tribal lifestyle — their clothing and jewellery, children and games, hunting and prayer,” says Chinaray.

The exhibition is on till December 29 at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Kumara Krupa Road. Kiosks from West Bengal, Gujarat and Kashmir are also part of the exhibition.

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