My longing for handicraft prompt me to explore and write something about the untamed folk heritage of Gujarat– Lippan Kaam, thriving through the vast stretches of the world’s greatest salt desert, the Great Rann of Kutch found in western India and Pakistan.
When we travel across the barren salt deserts of Kutch, we relive the traditional Mud-Mirror Work or Lippan Kaam of Gujarat. This art is a kind of Kutchhi Mural work popularly done by the women of the Rabari community. Rabari is the pastoral community of Kutch, living in the outskirts of its villages. They dwell in a few clusters and create houses known as “BHUNGA” – THE MUD HOUSE FROM GUJARAT which are beautiful sparkling mud houses designed aesthetically with mirror work on the outer walls and built to protect them from sun, sandstorms and Earthquakes.
Image Source: http://www.dsource.in/gallery/lippan-kaam-kutch
IN LITERAL TERMS:
Mud-Mirror work is also known as Chittar kaam. In Gujarati language, Lippan kaam means-
- Lipan or Lippan= Clay or Dung
- Kaam = work
HISTORY AND ORIGIN:
Lippan kaam owes its origin to the nomadic Rabari clan of Kutch and Kheda districts of Gujarat but its history is still unknown. Presently this work is done by various communities of Kutch in their own distinctive styles which makes it even harder to trace the origin of Lippan Kaam.
MATERIALS FOR LIPPAN KAAM:
Initially camel dung or wild ass dung was used as the main binding agent for preparing the dough that is mixed with clay. Sometimes millet was also used as an alternative. The clay used for this work is actually mud which is thoroughly sieved to obtain the fine particles which blends easily with the other particles. But these days instead of dung and millet, either saw dust or chalk powder is used.
TYPES OF MOTIFS/PATTERNS USED :
In Lippan Kaam Rabaries depict their day to day lives in the form of motifs. They usually illustrate peacocks, camels, elephants, mango trees, symbolic temples, joyous women churning buttermilk, water bearing women, and other daily activities of the life in Kutch.
Most of the time designs of lippan kaam are freehand drawings. Muslim communities however use geometric patterns as motifs because using animals and human symbols is prohibited in their religion.
The motifs are inspired from the rich and famous embroidery patterns and once the walls are done they look stunning with mirrors embedded in the mud work, much like the embroideries itself.
Gujarati embroidery patterns https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
The mirrors used are called aabhla and come in various shapes – round, diamond & triangular. These mirrors looks aesthetically appealing and add glittering light inside the bhunga homes. The mud- mirror work is elaborately done on walls, partitions, ceilings, doorways, niches and floors.
INTERIORS SHOWCASING LIPPAN KAAM
Photo Courtsey: https://www.allposters.com/
MODERN DAYS MUD-MIRROR WORKS:
With the passage of time, intricate work of Lippan is recreated by craftsmen to make them handy for Indian contemporary home decor. Now as the mud-mirror work is available in frames/wooden panels, this stunning art finds its way to the modern markets and online-stores and achieved its place in the form of a wall décor in homes and workplaces.
Replacing the pungent-smelling materials (dung) with new materials like chalk powder, sawdust and the plywood or hardboard used for base makes them durable, washable , waterproof and non-breakable.
- The design is drawn on a piece of plywood with pencil.
- A raised border is created, and then the motifs are made within it.
- Clay is mixed with water to make it soft and pliable and then rolled into long pieces and stuck on to the design with a mild adhesive
- The work has to be done outside in sun, to make it dry for almost 4-5 days
- Light moisture is applied to the long pieces of clay to prevent them from crack while being applied on to the design .
- The mirrors are stuck appropriately with adhesive after the design is complete.
- Authenticit Lipan Kaam lies in a completed piece that is all white or in shades of neutrals but occasionally bright colors like red and green are painted on the dried clay work.
SIMPLE DIY TUTORIAL:
So, do try this amazing DIY Lippan art at home. Take pride in celebrating the rich heritage of our country and encourage the local art and artisans by appreciating their work.
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