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Odisha Craft Museum

Papier Mache: Bringing Life to Odia Folklore

Papier Mache, a work of art which is well known in Odisha, features the ability of Odia artisans to make beauty from waste. Papier Mache translates to bit paper or pulped paper. It is a composite material comprising bits of paper or mash bound with a glue, paste and starch.

An art brought to Odia shores by hands unknown, papier mache is used for making masks for various Odia festivals and jatras (open air plays), figurines and small decorative items.

Papier mache figurine
courtesy Virasat-e-Hind blog

How Papier Mache Unfolds

The procedure involved in making these shapes is very tiresome. Papers and different common strands are drenched from the outset following which the prepared mash is beaten and blended in with an assortment of seeds and gums. This treatment protects it and shields it from termites. Clays and waste papers are additionally included for body and support. This entire procedure offers flexiblity as it tends to be shaped into countless structures.

The final stage includes utilization of sawdust blended in with gum which is left to dry. After drying the figure is cleaned with sandpaper for a smooth and glossy completion.

These items are for the most part made in Keonjhar district. Different beautiful things, for example, window box, sculpture, picture, pen stand and paper weight among others are made utilizing this type of craftsmanship. Taking advantage of the capability of this artistic expression, numerous occupants of towns in Keonjhar region have accepted the action as their employment.

Artisans in Puri district have also started making papier mache products to diversify their offerings.

Tied Deep in Odia Folklore

The rich legacy of Odisha is offered in patachitra styled covers privately known as Mukha. The art form has been rehearsed by the skilled workers all over Odisha especially in and around Puri.

The historical backdrop of community theatre otherwise called Jatra in vernacular language has been a predominant effect on this art. The characters of these Jatras are made of wood, sholapith and Papier Mache and are distinctively painted to seem appealing. The actors dress up as the characters played by them and are masks are tied to the face by strings. In light of the portrayals, veils are utilized by the craftsmen. This has offered ascend to the craft of making veils from ordinary paper.

The motivation of Patachitras apparent in the utilization of characteristic hues and itemizing of the figure’s facial highlights. The hues are made from common items like shells and shakes. The trademark highlights of the patachitra style, for example, diagrams of the figure’s eyes in red and dark can be observed in the Papier Mache veils too. Covers of gods, evil spirits and creatures are made for use in the locality and traditional movie and theatre exhibitions. The figures and different items like dolls, pen stands and lampshades are created in numerous sizes and types.

Today, papier mache has declined as an art. At its heyday, artists used to live in isolated villages patronized by the feudal Gadajat kings of Odisha. British Raj and Independence connected the nation together and brought this art to the open. However, globalization has taken its tool. Cheap chinese goods have displaced indigenous papier mache artists from the market and most now consider it a hobbyist’s art form.

The State Government has put up incentives for promoting art but papier mache is lagging behind. We need to take action, the easiest would be to buy something local from exhibitions. In other words, support the artist by buying their products.

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