I have earlier written about my tryst with art and craft with Gujarat but Lacquer Art was unplanned and unexpected. The artisan from Nirona village was off for his afternoon ablutions in a some local pond or street side well when he saw us aimlessly walking around and volunteered to show us his craft. This art is practiced by a semi nomadic tribe in Gujarat. We were made to sit on a bench under a tree while he sat down with his tools to show us how he generates the riot of colors on wooden spoons, bread rolling pins, containers, toys, utensils etc.
Lacquer is obtained from the sap of the Rhus Tree which changes colour from white to brown upon exposure to air. It needs to be handled carefully else it can turn out to be a skin irritant. Lacquer is mixed with natural and artificial dyes to obtain the vibrant colours like white is obtained from crushed egg shells, red from the mineral cinnabar, yellow from turmeric, black from iron, green from the crushed dried leaves etc. Mango Wood is used as the base for making the article which is then embellished with lacquer. The product is coated with an emulsion and then glazed with a hard stone while it is turned on the manually operated machine. Sometimes geometrical and floral patterns are created with dual colours. Finally a coat of transparent lacquer is applied to give the glazed shining look to the lacquer art layered to perfection.
By the time the demonstration was over the ladies of the house had taken out trunks full of different articles and as usual I picked up something from everyone. Traditionally, these items form a part of the bride’s trousseau in this part of the world. When I visit these homes my inner voice tells me that I have traveled all this way for a purpose and these are symbols of my memory. Back home, whenever I am stirring using the wooden ladle decorated with lacquer, my mind goes for a quick visit under the tree in Nirona.
Visit Nirona Village on the way to Rann of Kutch from Bhuj and make a stop at the homes of the bell maker, lacquer artisan and Rogan Artists.
Lacquer Work is popular through South East Asia in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea. Though the styles vary, the essence of the art is quite the same. Art is a great unifier as they say for the language has no script, no words and can reach out to anyone with an open heart !!