Tribal Arts Tour of India - Usta, Tholu Bommalata
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Today’s theme is dying art forms. So let's begin.
State - Rajasthan
Folk art - Usta Art
Usta art is a generic term used for the gold leaf embossing work done by Usta artisans. The word "Usta'' derives from the Persian word on استاد "Ustad", meaning master or skilled person. The city of Bikaner in Rajasthan is famous for its Usta work.
Usta art, the Art of Golden Painting and embossing was brought to India by Mughal Emperors along with a sect of practising artists from Iran. Impressed by the art, former Ruler, His Highness Rai Singh of Bikaner (a General in the Court of Emperor Akbar and a contemporary of Jahangir) requested Akbar to allow some of the experts in this art to work in Bikaner. Akbar sent seven Usta artists to work in the Court of Bikaner state. The craftsmanship and skill of those artists can be seen even today in the Anup mahal, Phool mahal and karan mahal of junagarh fort. In modern times Usta art is being practised on diverse surfaces such as metals, stones, walls, ceilings etc.
First, the base surface is smoothened by applying a natural primer. Then measurements are taken for the designs and designs are drawn on the prepared surface. The first stage (also known as ‘Akhbara’) commences by using the brush and color to fill the floral design. After the floral design dries up, it is embossed using a paste prepared by mixing gum, pot clay powder, Naushadar, and jaggery together. Later two layers of yellow paint are applied on this embossed design. After it dries, gold foils are applied. In the end, the design is filled with colour and details are drawn through a very fine brush.
Despite enjoying glorious heights and limelight in the 16th -17th century, the number of artisans has reduced significantly from around 100 in the past decade to a mere 10 currently due to lack of demand.
State - Andhra Pradesh
Folk art - Tholu Bommalata (Tholu – leather, Bommalata – puppet dance)
Situated at - Madhavapatnam, near Kakinada, DCPalli in Nellore district, Nimmala Kunta in Anantapur district and Narasaraopet in Guntur district
Material used - leather, colours, bamboo pen, stick
The leather puppetry of Andhra Pradesh is amongst the oldest shadow puppet traditions. It is a medium of entertainment, narrating stories and passing down traditions.
Artists would travel from village to village, putting up performances that spread over days, 6 days for Ramayana & 18 days for Mahabharata. With the evolution of different forms of entertainment, these shows are becoming rare and are now reduced to an hour.
The traditional process of crafting shadow puppets requires 30-40 days, from the procurement of leather to the completion of the product. Puppets were traditionally crafted from deer skin. Now they are made from goat hide. After a two week long process of cleaning, the skin becomes translucent and ready for the artwork. Once the hide is ready, outlines are drawn and coloured. Different characters have their designated colours, for example, blue for Rama and Krishna, green Anjaneya, yellow for rishis and so on. The puppet form is then mounted on sticks and bound with ropes to facilitate movement. The translucency and vivid colours, that give these puppets their brilliance, when viewed against the light, they look like glowing jewels. The transparency and durability of the material makes it perfect for statement necklaces and colourful earrings that light up any outfit.
Credit - Enactus, Gaatha.com