Colours and creativity
Gujarat’s Rathwas are showcasing their work at Gurjari.
Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
Earthy charm: The Rathwa artisans.
A potter, painter and idol maker from the Rathwa tribe of Gujarat begin their creative dhanda (work) with deft and practised strokes. Clay, wood, fruit and vegetable colours have all been brought Gujarat.
As they slap the clay with rhythm, chisel a wooden tribal icon into form and paint ancient myths on canvas a whole new world of lacquer ware comes to life..
All from Nature
Rathiya Bhai potter and son of Hakku Bhai lives in Umballa village, which he says, is close to a mountainside surrounded by jungles full of amaltas, mahua and kusum trees. He does “mati ka kaam” (works with clay) for which he collects clay from the nearby jungles. “We mix the mud with water and keep it for 24 hours. We also prepare a powder of dry cowdung and add it to the clay-water mixture, and then thoroughly compress it with the hand. We then use our hands to give the vessel its shape.” These shapes have endured through the millennia. The vessels they make can be used directly on gas or chulha and have stood the test of time.
The food cooked in them is not only tasty, but requires little oil and hence healthy.
Rathwa Haribhai Mansingh brings vignettes of Rathwa myth and mythology to life on the walls of the tribal huts and canvas alike.
The predominant colours are red, black, orange, yellow, green and blue, all of which are got from the mahua, kesuda, amaltas and other flowers.
“Today,” says Haribhai, “we paint on canvas for the world outside and use poster colours. But our themes are tribal, featuring our lives, gods and the animals in our jungles.”
Chaganbhai Karjibhai Rathwa is an adivasi icon maker. He invests the act of chiselling and chipping away at a block of wood with amazing grace. The rules of his art lie, he says, in his head and will be carried forward to the next generation. He collects teak wood from the jungles in which he lives and fashions murtis for worship in temples as well as statues. As you watch him he is sculpting a tribal girl in all her finery…
The brilliantly shaped Rathwa cookware, which can also be used with stunning effect as objets d’art, along with the Pithora paintings and wooden Rathwa icons can be seen at Gurjari’s exhibition currently on at C.P. Art Centre, Eldams Road, till August 3. The tribal artefacts will also be showcased after the exhibition at Gurjari, Co-optex Exhibition ground, 350, Pantheon Road, Egmore.
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