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Narrative scrolls

Nakashi paintings depict legends from literary and folk traditions

Photo: K. Gajendran

NAKASHI ART is basically scrolls of narratives from mythology and folklore. In that sense, it may be somewhat similar to the Pattachittra of Orissa. Nakashi practised in Cheriyal, Warangal, has evolved as a distinct art form on its own - quite stylised in form and technique. An exhibition-cum-workshop (till May 21) being held at the State Gallery of Fine Arts, Kavuri Hills, Madhpur not just displays paintings but helps one to learn the technicalities of this art form. The artists who paint scrolls and make dolls and masks are present to explain.

In vivid hues (mostly primary colours) with a predominance of red in the background, these scroll paintings are easy to relate to - as the themes and stories are familiar - drawn from the storehouse of ancient literary and folk traditions.

"Nakashi came into national prominence after 1975 when the All India Handicrafts Board came to know of the art. We have been showcasing this art at various handicraft exhibitions and fairs," says D. Vaikuntam, an artist, who has been painting for more than three decades. Born into a family where this art has passed on hereditarily, Vaikuntam has carried the art forward to cross boundaries.

"Earlier Nakashi scrolls and dolls were used for story telling. The artists would make them and give them to storytellers. Now they are being used to adorn the walls in homes. Also, the scrolls, which measured 60-70 feet earlier, have now been reduced in size, as nowadays there is not much of wall space to hang such big ones. Hence, now the scrolls depict certain episodes from a particular epic or text than the whole text," says Vaikuntam.

An elaborate procedure is followed to prepare the painting. The khadi cotton is treated in a mixture of starch (from rice), suddha matti (white mud), a paste of boiled tamarind seeds and gum water thrice. Then this canvas is ready. The artists also work on the colours (some of which is bought). And then the painting is done directly with the brush.

The scrolls have panels or sections depicting various episodes and incidents. A decorative border completes the work. The highlight of the painting is the usage of bright colours like red, yellow, blue, white, green and brown.

"The common themes are from the Krishna Leela, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Shiva Puranam, Markandeya Puranam and stories of communities like Gauda, Madiga and so on," says Vaikuntam.

"Dolls and masks are made of wood, sawdust and tamarind paste," says Nageshwar. "Earlier the Nakashi artists also made vahanas for the idols in Telangana and painted them," chips in Vaikuntam.

Today the artists are also painting some modern themes occasionally. With some efforts by craft organisations and patronage the future of this art seems to be looking up slightly.


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