Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Horn Craft of Orissa - Part II

pen holder in horn craft

The process of crafting horn

Horn crafts demands enormous patient, utmost concentration and long working hours. First the solid part of the horn is soaked in water to make it soft and then the desired design is carved out of it. If shaping is necessary, then the carved piece is heated to a specific temperature and shaped. Then, different files are used to smooth the surface of the sculpture. Necessary bores are then made to fix appendages. Eyes and other highlights used to be made of stag antlers, but now a days due to its unavailability plastic is used. After drilling bores, light incisions and grooves are made in the required places on the body of the horn work. Then it is polished, generally by the women of the village. They polish the articles first with sand paper and then with wet Kharsana leaves. The Kharsana leaves have a rough surface on one side. The polishing is continued till the horn work is smooth and shiny. Then it is thoroughly cleaned with water and dried in open air. After drying it is polished further with cow dung ash or charcoal ash. Then the various parts are assembled by applying either limestone paste or white varnish highlights the desired areas. Finally coconut oil is smeared all over which gives the horn work the beautiful luster it possesses.

The present

Like any other crafts in Orissa this craft is also fighting for its survival. This craft which seems to have reached its fag end too soon is going to die an untimely death unless some concrete and hard actions are taken. Dejection is written over the faces of the artisans who are now valiantly struggling to maintain their rich cultural heritage. They suffer a major setback from the non-availability of enough horns. They have to compete with buyers from outside the state which results in the spiraling of its price and the lowering of their profit. Horns also are used in the rich shipping industry, leading to further scarcity. And the worst part is that, the horn workers have to compete with various machine made products like plastic ware. And the worst enemy are the buyers like us who have been showing indifference to traditional craftsmanship. The horn craft artisans are hence going into other professions. Those who are still sticking to this profession are not at all interested in passing it on to their children. The way the situation is right now this beautiful craft will surely die a painful death in another ten years or so. It will have to a be a combined effort of the government and the buyer to get this craft form back where it belonged.

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