This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun, written by Arundhati Bhande.

We belong to a society that is forgetting to appreciate the metal craft in Pune’s copper alley. Let us talk about the forgotten copper artisans of Pune, Tambit Ali workers. This Indian metal craft work has been passed down to us over generations. Moreover, we are forgetting to appreciate the artists who keep the fire burning.  One such community of artists is the copper artisans from Pune, Maharashtra the Tambat Ali workers.

This community settled in Pune around 400 years ago. The Peshwas were their first patrons. The community was once the talk of the town. These copper artisans are sidelined with the advent of stainless steel and plastic utensils.

They are aware of the fact that the pots they make can earn a few hundred rupees only. These pots are being sold for thousands in the market. They have no option but to continue with their metal craft hoping that none of the future generations have to suffer.

Meet the workers of Tambat Ali and get to know their everyday struggles.

1. “When I was younger, my foot and thighs would hurt a lot while hammering the design on the piece and using the foot for support. Now I have become used to it. I can keep my foot still for half an hour while I am finishing a piece, this ensures that the consistency is maintained.” Ganesh Karde was 18 when he started working with copper, it has been 25 years since.

 

2. “I have a degree in Bachelors of Commerce, the constant sound of hammering has affected my hearing, but this is the only job I can do the best. I wear gloves while working because I have clammy hands and the moisture may leave black marks on the copper.” Ajit Pimpale is from the third and the last generation of copper workers from his family.

 

3. “I don’t work after 5 PM because the light isn’t good enough, the bulb is of little help. Some of us still work after sundown but I can’t.”

 

This photo story has been created by Arundhati Bhande. She is among the 20 students a.k.a heritage enthusiasts from The Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication who participated in the Make Heritage Fun! event held on 26th March 2017, in Pune, India.


Content researched by Shivanki and written by Sakshi Jain

Karnataka tableau at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi featured Bidriware and Bidri artisans from Bidar.

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org

A handicraft which recognizes itself as the symbol of Wealth. The term Bidriware originates from the township of Bidar. It’s a chief center for the manufacture of the unique metalware. Due to a striking inlay artwork, Bidriware metal art is also a primal export handicraft. The metal utilized is blackened alloy of Zinc and Copper inlaid. Along with thin sheets of pure silver (99%), so It never tarnishes during oxidization. Bidri work thus is an outstanding Karnataka art and craft form.

Artisans anticipate that soil of Bidar is away from sunlight & rain for years and Therefore, it has great oxidizing properties. The metal extract in the soil makes it more unique. The artisans also say that “the real art lies in testing the mud which is necessary for making its article. Artisans taste it by their tongue and then decide whether to use it or not.” This knack comes from experience is passes on to next generation.

Image Source: https://lbb.in/bangalore

The art form origins in ancient Persia. It came to India by the followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The art developed in the kingdom is intermingled with Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries and mixes with the local styles. Thus a unique style of its own was born as Bidriware.

In particular, one of the oldest records of origins of this art form is that of Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran. He was invited by the Sultan Ahmed Shah Bahmani for decorating royal palaces and courts. Kaiser joined hands with local craftsmen and give birth to Bidriware under the rule of second Sultan Alauddin Bahmani. The art expands markedly and handed over to succeeding generation with time.

Fortunately, today also we can enjoy its exclusivity. The craft has been handed down to succeeding generations. Mostly among the local Muslim and Lingayat sects, this metal handicraft is also seen in Hyderabad. The general artifacts made are vases, huqa bases, jewelry, bowls. These artifacts are incredible sovereign of the Indian Heritage.

Image Source: http://kaveriponnapa.com/

Persons and Organizations 

1. 700 artisans, including a few women in Bidar city, still continue to create Bidriware artifact.

2. Anees Ahmed  is succeeding his family tradition and still working as bidri artisan http://www.craftrevival.org/

3.  Rehaman Patel – An artist based in Gulbarga has done an extensive research in Bidri Art collecting all evidence historical background of bidri.

4. Victoria and Albert Museum in London also have some collection on Bidriware.

 

Image Source: https://lbb.in/delhi

Bidriware Museums: To encourage the Bidri artwork many Exhibitions and Museums has been established. Some of these are as follows:

1. SalarZang Museum, Hyderabad

2. National Museum, New Delhi

3. Indian Museum, New Delhi

4.District Archaeology and Museum, Nizamabad.

5. Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay.

 


Author: Manali

Image Sources:                                                                                                                                                               http://www.cultureartgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/DhokraTribal11.jpg                                              https://orchaa.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/dokra.jpg

Remember seeing a faded image of a wiry bronze statuette known as The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro in your history book back in school? Metal sculpting in India dates back to a mind boggling five thousand years, initiated in this part of the continent by those early Indus settlers we revere today as one of the most advanced civilizations of antiquity. Like any other artefact of culture that transforms and improves over time, metal craft too has had its share of evolution, exquisite handicrafts of which can be seen in lifestyle stores, exhibitions and even bought online. If you place the Dancing Girl next to a contemporary metal cast torso of the Buddha, no doubt the difference will be striking – the latter, by virtue of its semi-mechanised production process, will inevitably be more intricate, detailed, and possibly more “artsy”. Yet, something about the ancient sculpture will draw you in; the somewhat imperfect shape is testimony to physical human labour, passion and skill that no machine can hope to surpass. While metal sculpting las largely been inducted into a mechanised industry, the blood and sweat of the 2500 BC bronze statuette still survives in the artisans of Bengal and Central India by the name of Dhokra. The ancient metal art called the dhokra art from west Bengal represents stunning metal art in the Indian handicrafts.

History of Dhokra art

The Dhokra Kamars (‘kamar’ is term reserved for metal workers) were originally nomadic artisans who travelled through much of eastern and central India. As is the case with most non-settlers, they eventually got ingested into the caste system of Hinduism and were allotted the very lowest strata of the pyramid – the Untouchables. The word Dhokra was often used by the upper castes as a derogatory term for an untouchable and the practice prevails till date, in the districts of Bankura and Dariapur in West Bengal. Astonishingly, these also happen to be the very places where these tribal groups are actively cultivating the ancient art of cire perdue or the casting of metal in wax moulds.

Dhokra handicrafts in West Bengal

Dhokra metalsmiths of west Bengal using wax casting metal and produce the decorative metal work. Unlike modern metal work, the sculptures produced by the Dhokras are unique in their tribal identity – the themes for their sculpture work largely revolves around tribal deities, representations of tribal women, traditions, festivals and the like, and in that, they beautifully reflect something of the aura that is to be felt upon observing an ancient sculpture like The Dancing Girl. Each individual figurine is sculpted through a unique, one of a kind clay and wax cast. The process involves creating a solid clay cast for the figure, followed by a layer of wax that is manually given the detailing and shape that the final sculpture will have, followed finally by another layer of clay which is then set aside to cool and solidify. Once the cast is formed, molten metal is poured between the two clay layers, the liquid metal entering all the detailed ridges and gaps. Thereafter, the wax is removed and the cast is strengthened using heat. Finally, the layers of clay is chiselled off, leaving bare the metal moulding, which is then cleaned and polished into a work of art.

Society functions in a curious way. The Dhokra Kamars, possibly one of the most creative artisan groups of East India, are also one of the poorest and most shunned sections of society. It is only through external organisations that their works are coming out before the public. More appalling is the scenario where capitalist business minds are usurping the craft and mass producing them in the name of Dhokra. The “labels” are getting recognition for the crafts that are being created by untouchable hands. The dark irony perhaps lies as an unsaid commentary on society which decorates homes with Dhokra work while being ignorant of the contradictions behind their origin. Meanwhile, the Dhokra Kamars of Bengal continue to feed their passion and curb their hunger through their beautiful acts of creation. One of the rare times that some of these original artisans come forward with their crafts is during Poush Mela that takes place for a week around Christmas every year in Shantiniketan, Bengal.