It had been a while since we ventured out to get a glimpse of local art and crafts and today being a Sunday, we took off to a nearby village called Mungadih. The villages of Chhattisgarh (also known as the rice bowl of India) are simple, clean, green and blessed with medicinal plants/herbs. Interestingly they have names which are symbolic of either water bodies, local deities or a medicinal herb found locally. Mungadih, too has its name after drumsticks! Colloquially, munga refers to drumstick and dih refers to a small hill. So, this village is famous for drumstick farming atop a small hillock.
Explore collection of Rice straw art on Hasthkala Curators.
We were fortunate to get to a government run craft workshop for paddy straw art run by a youngster- Suryavanshi who wore a very somber expression on his face as he showed us his students’ works and then on much insistence his own work soaked in humility! Our eyes twinkled with excitement as we saw such masterpieces done with patience and concentration. Students and the teacher alike had spun magic to say the least. We were certain we wanted to work with him.
Rice straw art is not something very localized to Chhattisgarh per say, it seems that almost all states known to produce rice have cultivated this art form and have named it colloquially. Kerala and Orissa are known to have rice straw artists who make breathtakingly beautiful artwork based on folklores, mythological figures, traditions and festivals and scenes from everyday life. However, one commonality among all these rice straw artists is that they use cloth as a base material to make artwork which is prone to attract dust, wear and tear and has to be mounted on another hard surface for durability.
We began to ideate designs with our artist and he quickly rolled out the first sample directly on wood as the base material which seemed like a mirror image of what we had explained. Interestingly, rice straw is available in shades of brown, black, white and beige which are the only colours available at the artist’s disposal. He has to cut, shave, shape and stick small pieces of straw on the sketch that he has made perfectly enough to make it look realistic. It demands intense concentration, perseverance, imagination and artistic labour to complete a single piece of art. Apparently much tougher than a paint brush style of artwork.
We narrowed down to designs which had the local flavours preserved in them and our first attempt has been of a Bastar tribe bride seen in the pic above. What do you think of this? What more do you think we should do? While we are at it…we would love to hear from you.
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Checkout 15 most famous Indian art forms.