Art classes by Crafts Council of Andhra Pradesh are heralding a change in government-run schools in Visakhapatnam

Shravan Kumar explaining the details about Cheriyal Masks

Shravan Kumar explaining the details about Cheriyal Masks  

The centuries old craft of Cheriyal keeps schoolchildren enthralled at a workshop organised by the Visakhapatnam-chapter of Craft Council of Andhra Pradesh

It is an unusual day for artist Shravan Kumar. Generally, he is busy chasing deadlines to complete orders for Cheriyal Masks, but today he is in a classroom with over 70 children of the in a classroom at the Thota Garuvu Zilla Parishad High School in Arilova gazing solemnly at him as he explains the history of his craft.

“I come from a family that has been practising this art form for a century now. I learnt the ropes from my father who in turn learnt it from his father. We come from a village, called Cheriyal in Telangana’s Warangal district where this craft has flourished for over 400 years,” he says and holds up a brightly-painted mask for the students to see.

Shravan and his father, Nageshwar Dhanalakota have been invited by the Crafts Council of Andhra Pradesh. The Visakhapatnam-chapter of the council is conducting craft classes in five Zilla Parishad schools under their initiative Krishna Kamalam Praveenya Vikasam. This initiative introduces students to traditional artforms. So far they have learnt about Etikoppa toys, bamboo basket-weaving, natural dyeing, and soap making.

Crafts Council hopes to resurrect interest in crafts that were an intrinsic part of Indian culture. “Learning should never be restricted to just academics. Children should be exposed to art and craft from an early age. These workshops is to tell children that there is so much more to learn beyond their books,” says Ammaji Rayudu, joint secretary of the council.

Shravan Kumar and Nageshwar Dhanalakota during the session

Shravan Kumar and Nageshwar Dhanalakota during the session  

Shravan the fifth-generation artisan begins by telling the children the raw materials needed to make the mask. “Our forefathers were smart, they understood the importance of preserving nature and used everything that was sustainable and eco-friendly. The masks are made using a sticky paste made of tamarind seeds and sawdust. These are then shaped into different faces and left to dry after which they are painted using natural colours,” explains Sharvan who completed his engineering but chose to take up the family profession. As Shravan speaks, his father moulds lumps of tamarind and sawdust paste into faces of farmers and characters from the epics. “Traditionally, these masks were used as props by the ancestors who travelled to cities reciting stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana. Apart from masks, they also painted scrolls that were used as a visual aid to go with the ballads. Today, adapting to the changing times, many artisan families are making keychains and wall art,” explains Nageshwar who has been practising the art for over 40 years. Children watch in awe as the masks take shape. P Soumya is seeing a Cheriyal mask for the first time and is enthused. She says“They look so colourful and bright. My friends and I have decided to make one ourself. Of course, we do not have tamarind paste and sawdust so we have planned to use clay and paint them with watercolours. I hope it looks as good as theirs.”

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 2:34:11 AM |

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