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Chittara is an artform in which clay paste is used to create geometric patterns on

the floors and walls of entrances of houses.

This art form, which originated from ancient cave paintings, eventually found its way to the walls and floors of village homes. The Kannada word Chittara (which is related to chittra ) means an image or design. Historically, the art form has been practiced by women of the Deewaru community in the Sagar district of Karnataka, where these images were painted on auspicious occasions on the interiors and exteriors of the home.

Historically, Chittara has been practiced by women of the Deewaru community in Karnataka’s Sagar district. Chittara patterns were painted in village homes on auspicious occasions, to welcome the Gods. These paintings are a part of family and community rituals associated with festivities, and only the woman of the house makes these patterns. Today, Chittara is a languishing craft, with supposedly only five families practising it in the state of Karnataka.

Workshops with artisans vary from project to project and is dependent on how literate the craftswomen are and how much exposure they have had in exploring new designs with their craft. Since Radha Sullur, whom we worked with is literate in English, it was easier for her to understand the nuances of letter shapes, although, we had to explain the rules of type design, to her, as well as explore how this specific artwork can be transformed into type.




Introduction


Dhokra art is the earliest acknowledged technique of non-ferrous metal casting known to human civilization. The name Dhokra or Dokra is used to indicate brassware products from nomadic craftsmen from Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal. These communities, which are the Situlias, Ghantaras, Thataries, Ghasis, Bathudis, and others have taken the baton to keep this traditional artwork alive.


History of Dhokra Art


Dhokra craftwork form goes back 5000 years from the Dhokra Damar tribe of West Bengal. These Blacksmiths of Bengal are the earliest known practitioners of nonferrous metal casting known to civilizations. One of the earliest known artifacts of Dhokra is the Goddess Sindhu Maa (dancing girl) of Mohenjo-Daro.


It takes its roots from West Bengal and Odisha. . Their technique of lost wax casting Dhokra is named after the tribe of Dhokra Damar. This technique then made its way from Jharkhand and West Bengal, to Chattisgarh and then all over India.

Dhokra products were used in various applications from figurines to measuring bowls and religious deities, though their themes are pretty limited given the fact that the metal artisans do not have much spectrum of imagination beyond their own lives. That being said, the technique that was once upon a time solely used for creating articles for the tribesmen’s personal use has now evolved and is currently being used to make jewelry boxes, tableware, lamps, and more.


Formation Process of Dhokra


The formation process of Dhokra art works is a meticulous procedure performed with utmost care and precision. First off, a core, slightly smaller than the designed artifact, is made with clay. Then it is left to dry in the sun after that it is given a coat of wax according to the desired thickness of the artifact. The wax layer is then coated with a slim layer of clay and all of the patterned intricacies are sculpted onto this clay layer. Once this clay layer dries, various clay layers are later on added and dried until the mold is solid and thick enough. It is then heated at temperatures for the wax layer to melt.


Once the wax has been drained off, the liquefied metal is poured into the mold cavity through multiple channels and left to take the shape of the clay mold. Once the metal has cooled off and solidified, the clay mold is broken off and therefore the casted object is revealed. As a result of the broken mold, no two Dhokra art pieces will ever look the same.


The final step in the method is applying patina to the metal object. This process enhances the surface by making it colored through the application of assorted chemicals. A final coat of wax is applied to reinforce and preserve the patina. Patina acts like a protective covering also it makes a metal object look aesthetic for its color.


Dhokra in 2021


Unfortunately, this stunning artwork is facing a lucid decline. The steady increase in raw material cost makes the finished products way more expensive to attract enough customers. As a result, craftsmen chose to avoid or show less interest in producing such artworks. Lack of inspiration, encouragement, and information of new trends as well as the inability to adapt to modern technology has also caused the decline of this artwork.


While there is still a heavy demand for these sculptures both commercially and in international markets, in cities like Milan, Paris, and London, the primitive techniques and lack of better tools cause a delay in production. The combination of ancient techniques, tribal simplicity, and craftsmen’s innovative skills results in some breathtaking creations.


Conclusion


Dhokra art is used in creative ways to make new-fangled artifacts, and minimalist jewelry today. Along with items like ashtrays, doorknobs, and handles, kitchenware and even statuettes of celebrities, Dhokra stays afloat amongst its century's art forms.


Although attempts are currently being made to revive the craft today, Dhokra artisans are still troubled to keep their craft going. The lack of business know-how and techniques to market their products in today’s market is the main factor holding these artisans back. With the rise of e-commerce and renewed interest from the younger generation in authentic, heritage-rich art, there a burning candle for this ancient artform.


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By

Shrikant Das





"The earliest civilization of Sumerians is the first who valued art and crafts more than war and empire expansion. Their craft has survived and today we can still see them as said, The survival of artistic modes in which we recognize ourselves, identify ourselves and place ourselves will survive as long as humanity survives." -M. H. Abrams


Introduction


The Sumerians were one of the first civilizations that started circa 4500 BC and ended around 1900 BC. This civilization influenced the ancient Middle East and Persia with their accomplishments and innovations. Their people echoed diverse ancient cultures such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ethiopia, and more. They were a highly religious agricultural society. They put great emphasis on art culture and the written word as is the case with all cultures.


They were innovative inventive people on par with modern-day societies on many aspects of life. In our recorded history they are the culture that gave us the first of many things. The first Empire, the first city-states, the first democracy, the first autocracy. They introduced writing, education, religion, law and order, art, and literature. The Sumerians were the earliest experts in many fields.


They were located between The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers along with the Persian Gulf to the southeastern side of their earliest countries. The rivers were prone to flooding which resulted in rich farmlands and plentiful supplies of smooth clay that had washed down from the faraway mountains.


The Initiation


Sumerians had a vast array of professions to choose from differentiated between two groups. The Sumerian upper classes, mostly royalty and priests and the lower class consisting of farmers, traders and craftsmen. They had a huge variety of craftsmen such as sculptors, jewelers, lapidaries, carpenters, Smith's, leather workers, basket makers, builders, and many more.


The Sumerians were most known for clay works. As clay was the most abundant material available, it provided Sumerian with much prosperity by trading them with the world. Pottery, terra-cotta sculpture, cuneiform tablets, tableware and clay cylinder seals were the regular products made by them.

The artisans were highly skilled but they faced many hardships during the earlier periods. Be it extreme weather, invasion by enemies and wild animals. Their art tells the story of their relationship with nature, their battles and conquests, along with their religious beliefs and Mythological deities.





As time passes there have been some changes in techniques used to make the artifacts but the original culture is still preserved in their craft along with the designs. The Sumerians were the first to use the turning wheel for making pottery which allowed them to mass-produce . Before the turning wheel, the production of a perfect circular design was very hard to achieve.


The Turning Wheel for Sumerian Art




As time passes there have been some changes in techniques used to make the artifacts but the original culture is still preserved in their craft along with the designs. The Sumerians were the first to use the turning wheel for making pottery which allowed them to mass-produce . Before the turning wheel, the production of a perfect circular design was very hard to achieve.

They had a black pigment, probably manganese for decoration of the ceramics. Their intricate designs of florals and repetitive random patterns are also seen in metallic and glassware. Copper, Gold and silver are combined in beautiful design and the dinnerware are formed by highly skilled artisans. Also, glassware is combined with metals to form unique designs of tableware astonishing to the eyes. The mesmerizing designs are a unique quality of perfection.


The crafts are as old as time because the people of Sumer were the one's to develop the concept of time dividing days and nights into 12 hour periods, an hour with sixty minutes, and each minute with sixty seconds.


The Happy Tragedy


In today's Iraq, the war and military disturbance has destroyed a lot of artefacts in museums and tarnished this beautiful art form. There are efforts being made to preserve this art form as an important part of Sumerian history. Globalization and awareness towards preservation have made sure we don't lose this piece of our heritage.


Sumeria's gift to the world is definitely not something to be forgotten easily only because them molding this craft, meant for us to preserve it. Let's join hands to make sure that staying afloat in the markets shall not be a problem for extraordinary and groundbreaking forms of art like this one from Sumeria.




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By

Shrikant Das