Where art flaunts culture

CELEBRATING NATURE

Where art flaunts culture

Hase chittara, a vibrant art form indigenous to Malnad, celebrates rural life by depicting its elements and activities. It reflects the socio-cultural and agricultural scenario of the region and has become an integral part of their customs: The walls are decked up with these drawings during special occasions, particularly wedding ceremonies. Women are the primary creators of these intricate designs built on simple geometrical patterns like squares, triangles and rectangles. For centuries, hase chittara has been a source of joy and medium of expression for women, in their day-to-day life. These drawings, known for their depth and characteristics, are usually 2-3 feet in size and are drawn on walls, doors, window frames and baskets.

The process

The paste used to draw these lines is made using naturally available materials like red earth, rice flour, pastes of berries, and coloured extracts from flowers. Turmeric powder and milk are also used by some practitioners, to enhance the colour. Red earth is used as the base for all paintings, except on bamboo baskets, for which a mixture of cow dung and red earth is used as base. Though earlier a variety of grass and paddy straws were used for drawing chittaras, off late, synthetic brushes have replaced them.

Gouramma, an artist from Sagar town is instrumental in expanding its scope byexperimenting it on cloth materials like carrybags, bedsheets, glasses, and paper. Inspired by her, young artists started painting on pen stand, invitation and greeting cards, and the trend is catching up, steadily.

Motifs of hase chittara include sun, moon, Seete mudi (a symbol of women empowerment), paddy lines, pallakki (palanquin), dibbana (wedding procession) and lovebirds. Generally, no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and other simple designs. Artists sell the art piece for about  Rs.200 to Rs.2,000, depending on its size and design.

The big picture
Quite a few artists and organisations are striving to bring this art back to the fore as it is in the danger of being lost in the synthetic world. One such organisation is Chitrasiri, in Shirivante near Sagar.

N Chandrashekhar and Gouri, a couple, run the organisation, and have been practising this art for the past 20 years and are working towards popularising its designs. Chitrasiri is now a centre for research, development and broadcasting of traditional folk arts. It has conducted several workshops and exhibitions to create awareness about the significance of this art. The organisation has also introduced many innovations and new dimensions to the art form, inspiring young artists to explore further possibilities.

Chandrashekhar has received extensive support from the Centre For Revival of Indigenous Art (CFRIA), a civil society organisation committed to preserve and revive hase chittara. The centre supported Chandrashekhar to attend the Inter- national Exhibition of Folk Arts, in the year 2008, in Japan, for promoting the art form.

The couple is also working on creating market for paddy artefacts, another art form unique to Malnad region. Paddy shoots and stalks are used to make different craft designs, in this form. These designs are used for wedding decorations and other special occasions. The entire family is engaged in making this art. They prepare festoons, wall hangings, mats and the like, from fully grown paddy shoots, and sell them at exhibitions.

In 2007, Chandrashekhar prepared 1,111 feet long paddy festoon!
The life of the hase chittara and paddy festoons is 50 and 10 years, respectively, if they are kept in a dust-free environment and under mild sunshine. Naturally, there is a consistent demand for both hase chittara and paddy artefacts. In fact, tourists and art enthusiasts purchase these items on a regular basis.

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