Dokra Art

Introduction:

Dokra (also called Dhokra) art is an ancient method of making metal artifacts by a wax-casting technique. An art that is 4000-5000 years old, its earliest known lost wax artifact is the dancing girl of Mohenjodaro. Dhokra Damar, a tribe native to West Bengal have been the finest metal-casters in India since ancient times. While the craft is predominant in Bengal, states such as Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh too are centres of the craft. Dokra artists use a very interesting method to cast metal into the craft, a technique that is known as ‘Cire Perdue’. Cire Perdue is further distinguished into two categories: ‘Solid-casting’ predominant in West-Bengal and ‘Hollow-casting’ predominant in the Central and Eastern states of India. The craft mainly involves creating sculptures of owls, horses, elephants, peacocks, religious images, measuring bowls and lamp caskets etc.

 

Process of Making Dokra:

The process of making Dokra is fascinating and uses only natural raw materials. The basic mold is made with fine sand (mostly found next to the river banks) and clay. Goat and cow dung or husk is added to the principal material then layered with pure beeswax found in the jungle where the craftsmen reside. Wax threads are then prepared and wound around the clay mold until its entire surface is covered uniformly. After this, decorative aspects are added. The clay is then cooked over a furnace where the wax comes out from the drain ducts. The furnace is built above ground with bricks and natural fuel (charcoal, cow dung or coal). The wax burns in the furnace leaving a free channel for the metal to flow. Molten metal (mainly brass and bronze) is poured inside the mold. The molds are taken out after the metal has melted, and half-an-hour later, water is sprinkled to cool them. They are then broken and the cast figures are removed. The portions are retouched and are meticulously scoured at the river with clean sand to give the products a soft polished look. Normally, a simple figurine could take anywhere between over fifteen to thirty days to make.

 

Evolution of Dokra:

Every piece of Dokra art has a distinct identity. According to artisan Sushil Sakhuja, the tribes originally used this art form to create idols of deities, but over a period of time, as spiritual erosion took place, they started making more secular forms used more as artifacts than objects of worship. His craft collective has a vast repertoire – gods and goddesses, tribal and animal figurines, vases, door handles, and photo-frames. Nandi (Lord Shiva’s Bull) is one of the fast-selling favorites.

Traditionally Dokra as an art form was learnt and handed down over generations through the family. A native of Bastar himself, artist Sushil Sakhuja began his journey in Dokra by learning from local master artist Shobha Ram Sagar twenty years ago, and he has since worked extensively with various Dokra artists, won national awards and participated in several international exhibitions as well.  He is helping to revive the art by training both men and women of the families in Bastar while also constantly striving to come up with new products which have contemporary use and commercial viability. Belonging to a rare and unique breed of items and processes, the Dokra products are indeed a collectible.

Reference: http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/inside-isha/isha-yoga-center/hands-grace-dokra-art/

http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2012/07/dokra-craft-an-art-form-that-needs-to-be-kept-alive/

 

 

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