Nimmalakunta puppeteers on a transformation path

Artists make home decor products to stay relevant

March 09, 2018 01:00 am | Updated 08:58 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

Leather artists from Nimmalakunta preparing lampshades in the three-day expo organised by Andhra Pradesh Creativity and Culture Commission in Vijayawada.

Leather artists from Nimmalakunta preparing lampshades in the three-day expo organised by Andhra Pradesh Creativity and Culture Commission in Vijayawada.

The lives of seventy-odd families of Nimmalakunta Village in Anantapur District, which eke out a living, performing and promoting the traditional art - Tholu Bommalata - are gradually witnessing a transformation.

With the modern youth’s access to different kinds of entertainment through electronic gadgets; the age-old art, which depicts epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, is losing patronage.

Today, the puppeteers have diversified into making products using the same craft. The transparency and durability of the material make it perfect for interior decorative items which are used enliven houses and offices.

Thanks to Ministry of Textiles, Handicrafts Department and several NGOs, these artists are learning innovative creations to suit the market - both domestic and international.

Modern-day customers

The hands, which once pulled strings during the puppet shows are now concentrating on making objects such as lampshades, flower vases and other interior decoration articles for the modern-day customers. “We use goat skin to prepare these interior objects and we get it from Pune. For the performance Tholu Bommalalta, we use local goatskin, which will be brownish,” said Chinna Ramana, an artist who had come from Nimmalakunta to the expo on leather art organised by the Andhra Pradesh Creativity and Cutlure Commission.

Mr. Venkatesh, another artist, said they took part in various fairs, art expos, and exhibitions organised both by the government and private organizations. “For government fairs, we get sponsorship and allowance. But for private fairs and expos, we need to spend from our pockets,” he said.

Innovative creations

Both artists said that the new innovative creations were fetching a reasonable income to help them stay afloat in the changing times.

He said Tholu Bommalata had two divisions - Sutram Bommalata (string puppets) and the Koyya Bommalata (wooden puppets). “Along with Nimmalakunta in Anantapur district, places like Narasaraopet in Guntur district and Madhavapatnam, near Kakinada have families still performing the ancient art.”

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