Reaching the world!
CRAFT A visit to some Chhattisgarh villages noted for bell metal handicraft and terracotta art reveals these items are gaining currency.
ARTISTIC SPLENDOUR: clay and bell metal (below) handicraft items from Bastar.
When did you last see an artisan moulding terracotta into horses, pots and diyas? Or seen one hammering iron to transform it into birds, ashtrays or candle stands? Maybe on some channel, or at the Handicraft Museum at Pragati Maidan occasionally? But in Chhattisgarh, which is a hub for these tribal arts and handicrafts, almost every member of the various tribal communities can be spotted giving shape to clay and iron, to be sold in the local market, brought to metropolitan cities for sale and now, even exported.
Take for instance, Bhelwa Padrpora village in Bastar, famous for its bell metal handicrafts. This is also a village where nine-time National and State award winner Jaidev Baghel lives with his son Bhupinder Baghel - also a National Award winner - and continues to make bell metal art and handicraft items. "We use terracotta, rice chaff and wax wire to make these items," says Bhupinder. They still use an old handmade furnace to work. The results range from a very small candle stand to a huge panel, wall hangings and utility items. What arrests the attention is the `telltale' quality of these works. The candle stand is not merely a base on which to place a candle. It is a tale of a tribal, busy beating drums with two long sticks to scare the animals away, or announcing the arrival of a festival.
The tree that forms the support for his back is divided into three cup-shaped branches. It is in that cup that you place your candle. Similarly, the ashtray narrates the lives of three men celebrating merry times by drinking mahua, a local wine procured from wild seeds. The pot that contains mahua is placed on their heads. And this is the pot you utilise for dropping the ash.
The Baghels make huge sculptures too. They sell these items for as little as Rs.25 and as much as 10 lakhs. "Earlier, we had little exposure. But now we even export our items," says the senior Baghel who can "now manage to speak some English" as he has toured almost all major countries of the world.
Then there is Kumharpada area in Kunda Gaon in Bastar, which is 225 kilometres away from Raipur. This village is also the hub for terracotta. Earlier they used to make only handis and pitchers to sell in the local markets. But now masks, animals, decorative items, sculptures, vases and utility items as water cooler also roll out, thanks to Saathi, a Non Government Organisation. Says Bhupendra Banchhor, Secretary of Saathi, who lives with the Kumharpada artisans, "We have provided infrastructure, technical, design and financial support to these artisans to save the legacy from dying. For the first time, institutions like NIFT, NID, etc., have also come forward for design exchange programmes with them. Foreigners also come and stay with them for the same purpose."
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