Indian ethnic masks

Ethnic Masks in Home Décor

Ethnic Masks in Home Décor

Introduction

Mask refers to something that covers a part or entire face. Ethnic masks are made up of cloth, lime, leather, wood, clay, beads, shells, human/ animal hair, teeth, paper maché, linen, fibers, ivory, copper, bronze, terracotta, glazed pottery, gold, or locally available materials. These masks can be zoomorphic anthropomorphic i.e. animal or human characteristics or can be a combination of both. Pattachitra masks are a unique style of eastern India that finds pride of place among several worldwide mask styles.

The history of masks can be traced back to 7000 BC. Masks were generally used for ritual practices and ceremonies of spiritual significance for various purposes in different eras. Masks were localized to represent, invoke or connect with a particular spirit, ancestors, and supernatural beings to acquire and inherit power and to ascertain socio-political relationships. Masks were also used as a protection in battle field, as an accessory, fanciful and fascinating items around the world during carnivals and celebrations.

In Egyptian civilization, masks were used for funerary use because they believed in life after death. Masks are also used in Feng Shui.

With time, the use of masks gradually evolved to be used for artistic activities, theatre and art forms such as film, comedies or television. Finally, these ethnic masks entered our homes as artistic home decors.

Ethnic Mask Styles around the World

Putting on a mask is an internal and external transformative experience allowing us to be someone else. Over the years, many mask rituals and ceremonies have died out, but few have still held on to their cultures and traditions around the world.

Africa

Masks are used for rituals, ceremonies, to represent the cultural values of the tribe, spirits of animals or ancestors, mythological heroes, moral values or a symbolic way to honor a person. It is believed that the wearer of the mask is transformed into a spirit during a ritual, able to communicate between humans and spirits and is possessed by who or what the mask represents.

Asia

In Asia, masks are used for spiritual, cultural and decorative purposes, tribal rites, religious celebrations and theatrical performances.

  • Theatrical and Dance Masks: In Japan, mask depicts a variety of perceived expressions. India use masks in Hindu festivals and to depict popular puranic characters. In South India, Kathakali dancers wear masks to depict good and evil characters. Korea has religious and artistic masks for enacting people, animals and supernatural beings. Chinese use masks for traditional opera.
  • Ritualistic and Ceremonial Masks: In Indonesia, Bali, and Java, masks are used to honor ancestors and deities of planting and harvesting. In Sri Lanka, masks are used in processions, carnivals and curative rituals.
  • Religious Masks: Mongolians use masks as Dancing Demons to destroy the evil accrued during the past year. Nepal use masks to represent deities, such as Ganesh and Bhairava. In India, masks represent deities. Shiva and Shakti are considered extremely powerful. In Papua New Guinea, masks are mounted in homes and important locations as protection from marauding spirits.

Red Indians

Red Indians use masks in war rituals, healing rituals, shaman rituals, rituals initiating a young man into the tribe, as decoration, in entertainment and given as gifts.

Tribal

In tribes, masks are based on a purpose, story of origin and worn as a ceremonial costume. Masks are oiled and decorated with feathers, cowrie shells, colored beads, bone, animal skins and vegetable fiber. Masks represent the spirits of ancestors or the gods worshipped in the community.

Ethnic Masks as Home Décor

Ethnic masks are a breathtaking work of art that has been used as home decor since centuries. It gives depth and texture to the wall and complement with the rest of the decors.

Masks are incredibly decorative and make your home décor unique, giving a powerful protecting-energizing charm and good luck cure.

Ensure there is enough light so that it can be appreciated better but save it from direct sunlight as it might harm/ damage the piece/s.

No matter what your preference or style is, a home decorated with ethnic mask gives a rich and regal look, brings authentic depth, and makes the place look trendy and stylish.

Pattachitra Masks

Pattachitra is the oldest and popular art form of Odisha famous for its intricate details and mythological narratives and folktales in paintings and masks. The ethnic masks depict puranic characters from Hindu mythology such as Lord Hanuman, Ravan, Goddesses Kali, and Lord Shiva. Paper and papier mache is used as a raw material and colors from natural shells, minerals and stones. Tools such as pencils, erasers, fine brushes, scissors and rubbing stones (Chikana and Khadar) are used.

The process starts with giving an outline of the face, filling in details such as nose, eyes, ears, lips, and finally adding ornaments and colors.

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Odisha’s Pattachitra painting: A living, breathing Art

Odisha’s Pattachitra painting: A living, breathing Art

A traditional visual art from eastern India- the Pattachitra tradition is an integral part of intangible heritage and is an important essence of folk and traditional media. Pattachitra is therefore a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs, and designs, and portrayal of simple themes, mostly mythological in depiction.The traditions of pattachitra paintings are more than thousand years old. Most of these paintings depict stories of Hindu deities.Thus, Pattachitra forms an important and integral part of traditional and folk media from India especially represented through the Indian states of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Materials used in Pattachitra paintings

 The colours used within the scroll paintings were always and are still mostly made from various elements from nature- e.g.Originally, apart from paper and cloth, sometimes palm-leaf manuscripts were made to paint the scrolls, however, in recent years, this has been substituted completely by the use of paper, dexterously stuck on cloth to give it more stability and then used as a canvas for drawing.

.Since the materials and tools for the paintings are obtained from natural sources like brushes from mongoose or mouse hair, Pattachitra is a tedious process. The vivacity of the paintings can be ascribed to the enchanting natural colours used. The colours that make the art form more livid and appreciable, are made by the chitrakaras (painters) using ancient colour drawing techniques.

Yellow is made from turmeric or soil, Green is made from leaves of hyacinth bean plant or the leaves of wood apple, Purple is from black plum or blackberry, Conch-shell powder or white mud gives the white colour, Brown colour is obtained from limestone mixed with black catechu, Red is made from vermillion, alata (a reddish or scarlet ink or dye solution used for colouring feet), or terracotta soil, Grey is obtained from the soot from earthen ovens, Blue is obtained from blue seeds- locally known as nil bori, Black is obtained from scrapping the soot off from the outside bottoms of clay pots or even burning rice and pounding it to a powder to which is added home-made glue for required consistency or by burning the roots of the velvet apple trees.

However, in recent times, just as the canvas has taken the shape of papers bought easily from the market many a times, the natural colours are also substituted with easily bought acrylic and fabric paints from the market.

This is particularly prominent amidst the Pattachitra scrolls which are taken out of the villages for displaying in various art exhibitions across the globe.Gum from wood Apple is extracted in a coconut shell and mixed with natural colours and kept in the bright sunlight to darken.Firstly, the outlines of the painting are drawn on paper with paint and brush.

The painting process

We must understand the entire painting process is laced with divinity and hence the practitioners follow some traditional rituals during its making.  The final canvas created is off-white in colour, and the master painter (usually male) also known as chitrakar begins to paint. He has to be completely vegetarian during the time of painting, he has to sleep on the ground without a mattress, and wear a new dhoti while working on the paintings. Small snapshots of these different forms, in different shapes, form the border of the painting, while the centre depicts a larger representation of the characters. The pattachitra art form of Bengal is known for its bold colors, lines, and strokes.

New resurrection of the art form

Recently, animation media picked up stories from oral traditions to make popular television shows, folk music was explored extensively to blend with popular music for mainstream films from various regions in India- thus, Pattachitra tradition too found a new voice. In Odisha, there has been a spurt of comics book and animation series using this iconic imagery. Groups like srijamahyam have done yeomen work regarding this.

Thus, as Pattachitra from Bengal got to be displayed within New Media- especially through the personal websites of various folk artists as well as patua villages- a transformation evolved within the paradigms of local modes of entertainment- it found a voice within the global platform.

Pattachitra is one the most alluring art forms of Odisha that has grabbed the eyeballs in several international platforms.The theme of the Pattachitra paintings are mostly based on Hindu Mythology and inspired by Jagannath Sanskruti.During the Hindu festival, Rath Yatra, when the Lord Jagannath and his siblings go on hibernation and the Pattachitra paintings of the deities are worshipped in Sri Mandir. Not just limited to clothes or canvases but the paintings are engraved on the walls of the localites depicting the Indian mythology (The Ramayanas, puranas, etc.) and the shrine of Lord Jagannath.

It is interesting to note how despite a thousand years old legacy this art keeps going strong and hums with a living, breathing energy.

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Pattachitra Art in Home Decor

Pattachitra Art in Home Decor

Famous folk art of Orissa, Pattachitrais form of scroll painting on canvas, aboriginal to Orissa, and traditionally uses colors derived from organic sources. Because the art is so raw and elemental and uses iconic illustrations such as the totem-like illustration of Sri Jagannath, people often limit its purpose to temples and rarely use it in home décor or for personal use. The form is a tribute to Hindu gods and an offshoot of worships and rituals associated with the history of Sri Jagannath, but it’s an art, too, not only a rite specific to a religion.

The simple matter that pattachitra paintings are so vibrant makes them pieces to have in homes, but especially in Indian homes, as they are so entrenched in the indigenous Indian culture that a patta painting beholds great cultural and chronological leverage over many other types of paintings. The brush strokes speak loudly and proudly, adding thrill and a line of interest to a home decor. Modern Pattachitra paintings have also now been founded and explored, in which contemporary Pattachitra artists use adulterated material and unconventional icons. Consequently, the art now finds itself even in contemporary style homes. Traditionally, folk artist would use colours made from natural ingredients like china clay, soft clay or chalk, conch shell, red stone, yellow-brown ochre, and so on, and paint them using brushes made manually from the keya root and hairs of mouse and buffalo, on silk (for canvas). Black would come from charcoal powder, and white from sea shells plentiful on shores of Orissa.

It’s one’s own discretion to choose an art piece as per one’s own taste and home décor, but essentially, there are six types, based on:

Sri Jagannath Pati

Great Indian epics

Orissa folk lore

The art of bratas and worship rituals

Animals and birds

Eroticism

The paintings based on Sri Jagannath Pati and great Indian folks are more traditional in nature, adhering to the purpose of depiction of the deity and the holy “triad”, or mythologies, respectively. Whilst bright, these kinds of art are also solemn. The best suited décor that’ll be able to support this sort of art must be mature, and in style preferably earthen, or eclectic, or indigenously traditional to be in harmony with the painting. On the other hand, the Pattachitra paintings based on animals and birds are lighter in pathos, and their purpose is mainly depiction of nature. These paintings are soothing to eyes and soft in their implication. Such paintings are perfect for cottage style homes, coastal style homes, industrial homes, and country style homes, as they personify leisure and romanticism. Then, there are erotic Pattachitras which are tamasik in nature, exploring the darker side of nature. This art is bold, and finds itself in place in rustic style homes, Tuscan style homes, Moroccan style homes, eclectic style homes, and also indigenous traditional homes.Pattachitra painted dhurries, wall-hangings and quaint masks and figurines can fill your yoga area with a lot of spiritual character and ambience.

Besides paintings, Pattachitra is also finding its reaches in many scopes- like statues, artifacts, miscellaneous products such as pots, bookmarks, trinkets, accessories, etc, wall art, and more.They would typically be painted on surfaces as varied as canvas, paper, cloth and wood and even large size murals covering walls and roofs are possible. Such murals are seen in ancient temples of Odisha as part of traditional rituals including the Puri Jagannath temple.

   Today, the improvements in digital printing have enlarged the scope to transfer these unique designs which have been so far hand-painted unto a diverse set of surfaces. You could choose to have a personally preferred traditional pattachitra image to a t-shirt, handbag, flex, cap or umbrella. This why we at pattachitra.net offer a customised option to our customers. By paying a little more you can have your select merchandise imprinted with pattachitra designs. Makes a great gifting option as well!

   The Central and state government of Odisha have been relentlessly trying to impart the traditional artists or chitrkars with relevant training to make their craft applicable to modern home décor. This would make their products have more appeal in the mass market and improve their incomes. Reputed institutes like NIFT and NID are also working with the artisans towards this end.

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