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Six families struggle to keep alive the centuries-old lacquered artistry in this Gujarat village Nirona

Away from the glittery and glamorous world, around 6 families of artisans residing in Nirona village of Gujarat’s Kutch region are scripting a fabulous handmade story to sustain the lac turned wood craft tradition which is also called as lacquer artistry.

Battling the challenge of keeping alive the handmade artistry in the mechanised era, the proud artisans are crafting the beautiful decor products, purely hand made which range from kitchen utensils such as chakia-velan (chapatti roller and board) to beautiful colourful spoons and spatulas. They also make mesmerising mortar and pestals as well as multicoloured charpoy (bedsteads), stools and  furniture legs.

Says an artisan Bhavik bhachaya bhai, “Out of 24 houses in our village, only 6 families from Vadha community are involved in carrying forward the technical and artistic legacy of our forefathers to sustain the age-old craft of lacquer artistry.”

Six families struggle to keep alive the centuries-old lacquered artistry in this Gujarat village Nirona

Bhavik’s father, Bhachayabhai, is 75 now and can’t see clearly from his eyes. But he is too keen to make his sons adept in lacquer skills so that the rare art doesn’t die a silent death but is passed on from generation to generation with a marginal growth rate.

Says Bhavik, “My father came here in 1971 after India-Pakistan war. He settled here in Kutch region in Gujarat and started making earning as he was master in the lacquered artistry.”

In fact, my son is also learning the skills, however, lockdown and COVID-crisis has hit us hard and forced many of us to take up other profession to earn livelihood. Amid lockdown, dispatch of ordered goods is a challenge and generally takes 20 days to reach our clients. The entire cycle has gone slow and so is the number of artisans in our village coming down as they are going towards other professions,” he adds.

Six families struggle to keep alive the centuries-old lacquered artistry in this Gujarat village Nirona

The lacquer artistry is beautiful, rare, mesmerising and pristine, but how to promote it poses a challenge in front of us. We are ready to work round the clock if we get some good number of orders, he says.

Geetanjali Kasliwal, co founder, Anantaya, says, “The beautiful turnwood lacquer craft of Kutch definitely needs new directions and regular markets. The skill of creating these unique patterns on wood using a simple bow lathe is unique to the Vadhas of Kutch and should be promoted.”

Kutch is the only place in India where a handful of families practise this unique lacquer work technique, she adds.

The lacquer work technique is undoubtedly the most unique artistry yet is so much unknown in the nation.

In fact, Khamir, a platform for the crafts, heritage and cultural ecology. of the Kachchh region of Gujarat, organised an event in Jaipur where these artisans showcased their rare artistry.

Now, don’t you think we need to stand up to popularise this art so that more artisans from this community start getting more work to ensure this dying art keeps floating with force?

Let’s share  a positive message across…!

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