The Unique Dhokra Tribal Art – The Mystery Behind Creating Metal Sculptures from Natural Resources

sculptures

‘Traditional & Tribal’ are the two words that aptly define ‘The Dhokra Art’. But the two that are talked less and often go ignored are its characters of being ‘Eco-friendly and Natural’.

You will agree with the latter as you scroll down to this article on seeing how dhokra artefacts of metal are created not only from metal but also substances procured directly from nature including plants and animals.

Isn’t it amazing to create such artefacts that are born out of basic elements of our surroundings?

Yes it is! But it is possible only in the artistic and experienced hands of ‘The Metal Casters Of Dhokra Art’.

Far from industrialization, in the dense forests of Central India along the banks of river Indravati, in Bastar district, is home to Dhokra Damar tribe, the founders and keepers of this art form.

These master craftsmen are able to produce these splendid bronze statues and sculptures from basic resources such as soil, bees’ wax, cow dung, rice husk and bean leaves that are easily and abundantly available in nature.

Before starting the procedure, the casters assemble all the above mentioned elements at their work place. Three kinds of soil is used which is gathered from the fields (clay), from the river (silt) and from the termite mounds (which is a combination of soil, mud, chewed wood, cellulose and saliva).

These elements undergo just minor changes to befit usage in the process and thus the creation of dhokra statues and sculptures begins.

The first step of the caster is to create a rough model of a sculpture. For this, cow dung and rice husk are mixed with the clay from the fields in specific proportions. This dough is cast in the shape of a required sculpture and ‘The Model’ is created.

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A young girl preparing the dough for casting the model

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The models left for drying

After drying this model for 5 to 6 days another mixture is prepared to cover it. For this, silt is mixed with cow dung in specific proportions and is sieved and mixed with water. This mixture is then layered over the model. It is further left for drying for 5 to 6 days. Now, this model is filed with sandpaper and the surface is smoothened.

After filing, bean leaves are layered over this clay model. The purpose of bean leaves is to stop the shedding of any soil and to make the surface of the model sticky.

The model is again left for drying. In the meanwhile, the casters convert the bee wax, obtained from the honeycombs from the forests, into thin threads and strips.

After the bean leaves on the model have dried, the model is covered and decorated with these wax threads. This ‘Wax Model’ to quite an extent looks like the final metal sculpture and is left for drying.

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A group of casters covering the models with wax threads. Also visible in the picture are black wax threads hanging.

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A model covered with black threads. The greenish colour due to bean leaf coating is also noticeable.

Now, the most important and critical part of the process, to cover this wax model, starts. Another dough is prepared with silt, coal and cow dung. The three are kneaded in specific proportions and the resulting dough, blackish in color, is layered over the wax model such that no wax remains uncovered. Inlets for metal are kept in this layer.

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Preparing the blackish dough.

This is further covered with two layers of soil obtained from termite mounds.

Now the process of ‘Melting and Pouring of Metal’ into this prepared model starts.

Earthen pots are dug and filled with flammable wood obtained from the forests. In one pot bronze is melted and in another one the model is heated up. Once the metal completely melts, it is poured into the prepared model through the inlets kept for the purpose. The metal occupies the place of the wax.

After cooling this model for hours, the outer layers of the soil is broken and a metal sculpture is obtained.

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A freshly prepared Dhokra Artefact.

This metal sculpture is filed with sandpaper and is given a smooth, shiny or dull finish as per the requirement.

And thus before the caster is “The Divine Creation of Dhokra”.

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Blessed with an inexorable energy, the men and women of these tribes spend their lifetime casting metal into such beautiful artefacts. Despite their inexplicable works, these tribes are struggling hard to keep this art going not due to lack of resources but lack of appreciation. And thus, SouvNear has included these wonderful art pieces in its collection and provided ‘Dhokra’ with a global platform to be recognized and praised world-wide.

 

 

 

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