Monday, November 1, 2010

Finally, the outdoors...

The crisp winter air in Delhi signals the beginning of more outdoorsy activities. Rosy cheeked children dressed in their winter uniforms skip along happily to school. Just driving on the beautiful roads of Delhi past the parks and monuments  inspires us to plan weekend activities like picnics and birdwatching trips, to make full use of the season. 

As if that’s not enough, a profusion of events in the city leave us spoilt for choice. Music concerts, exhibitions, haats (or outdoor markets) for crafts, food festivals, and outdoor dance and music performances are a sure magnet for anyone who wants to give stuffy malls a miss. One such ongoing festival was Akhyan being held on the lawns of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, which is devoted to performance and masked art forms of India. Featuring stalls where craftspeople demonstrated their skills, making masks, leather puppets, scrolls or kaavads, besides an exhibition on masks and puppets of India. 

A sight to behold just as the Dastkar bazaar opened in the morning. Photo by Anant.

Puppet becoming puppeteer? Photo by Anant.

Master of the kitschy school of photography? Anant's perspective.

Can't get enough of these giant leather puppets. Photo by Anant.
On the same lawns, a crafts bazaar by Dastkar also provided enough opportunities to do our Diwali shopping or stock up for the winter. The Dastkar bazaar focuses on small development organizations working with artists and craftspersons to design and produce interesting and innovative objects,often with natural materials.

Another interesting feature was the workshops  by artists and craftspeople which could be attended by anyone for the nominal sum of Rs 30. 

Anant and I attended two such workshops, one on Madhubani painting and the other on the papercutting  called Sanjhi. While an hour is hardly enough to gain deep knowledge on anything, it was like diving in at the deep end and just doing what we were instructed to do, and asking questions to get more information. Both instructors said they have been working at their art since childhood. Madhubani painting was a revelation as we learnt that the inks and paints are made from plant material. The black ink used for the outlines is made with soot and kerosene. The paper was handmade brushed lightly with cowdung. Each of us was able to make one small painting outline using the nib and special black ink, and we needed to fill it out at home with poster paints. An hour was enough to understand the control needed over the nib, and also to get an overview of the typical layout of a Madhubani painting. 

At the Madhubhani school of painting, on the lawns of the IGNCA. Anant working on his initial outlines with a nib and the special ink. Photo by Namitha
Namitha's  attempt to get a hang of this style (voluntary disclosure, the bird on upper right corner was done by the instructor). Photo by Namitha
Tiger rendered in Madhubani style by Anant (voluntary disclosure: the tiger was done fully by Anant, with some help on the background by the instructor). Photo by Namitha
The Sanjhi paper cutting technique was not easy at all. Intricate stencils are used to transfer a design onto paper. A specially sharpened pair of barber’s scissors (with really short cutting sufaces) is used to cut out the paper stencil.  The point of the scissors pierces the paper which is supported from behind by one hand. Originally such stencils were  used to make rangolis(patterns with coloured powders or flowers). Current uses of these delicate stencils range from framing them or using them for dry rangolis. 

It was indeed an afternoon well spent, soaking in the mild winter sun, stretched out on the lawns, and learning something new.