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The bead work wall hangings of Dhangadhara in Gujarat and the Godhna tattoo art of Chitwapur in the Madhubani distict of Bihar are examples of changing craft expressions. While the traditional Ari work artists from Dhangadhara have embraced new skills while working on their cloth canvas, the tribal tattoo artists of Bihar now make paintings of their compelling work on paper and cloth while also creating brilliant traditional Madhubani art with the tribal slant.

Artisan Santosh’s wall hangings are wonderful montages of merging colours and the glint of zari and metallic button flowers on differently textured cloth surfaces. Originally paramparik Ari embroiderer he has switched over to creating wall canvas art with scraps of cloth joint together. “We collect scraps and pieces of clothof different shapes, colour and texture, and embroider on them with zari and silk thread, beads, buttons and sequins. The motifs are done free hand. Then we join these pieces into a collage and stitch them together. Now comes the ‘dori’ work which is done with a thick dori over the stitching lines, following the zig-zags, curves and even the geometric pathways. Once the dori work is stitched we dye the entire piece in one colour, after which the backing of the piece is done”.

The patchwork wall hangings and torans are mesmerising, a synergy of different motifs, textures and colours coming together with the abstract dori work lines giving it an intriguing touch. The final dye bath brings out the nuances of the differing colour of the fabric pieces.

Eloquent expressions

Ram Ashish Paswan has created on paper and canvas the 8’x4’ Madhubani panels depicting Krishna’s Rasleela, a beautiful nubile Krishna as Venugopal, all in the setting of trees abloom with fantasy flowers and frolicking birds and animals. The eloquent facial expressions, stylised features, stance and the magical Madhubani colours make each canvas a captivating experience. Yet Paswan is a traditional tattoo artist whose expertise lies in tattooing tiny elephants, birds and other symbols of tribal life on his fellow tribal’s bodies. Today the tattoo or Godhna art is done on paper and canvas, featuring the tribal art language of concentric circles, miniature elephants and birds, meeting in a central bindu. Defining the process, Ashish explains how the canvas is first covered with a ‘gobar’ solution. Once dry the outline of the artwork is done on the canvas with a brush and colours are filled later. In the Godhna work too Madhubani processes are used such as filling in interspaces with tiny vertical lines. “The colours are sourced from nature,” says the artisan: Red from rose, brown from the bark of the papal tree, mauve from jamun fruit and green from leaves of various shades. I do both Godhna and Madhubani painting.” He works on saris, dupattas, canvas paper and walls bringing the compelling charm of his art to an urban audience.

‘Arts and Crafts Utsav,’ currently on at Sri Sankara Hall, Teynampet, showcases the work of both Santosh and Paswan. The exhibition also has a wide range of other crafts such as Chennapatna toys and artefacts, jute wall hangings, Odisha Dhokra work and palm leaf art, Rajasthan’s iron work florets, Kashmiri embroidery and Kantha work. The exhibition is on till March 30.