One of the most opulently green expanses in India are the states of Northeast (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura) where bamboo (also called rattan in many places) and cane grow in abundance. With a plethora of these natural resources, there is no question that some of the local people excel in arts and crafts inspired by nature. The tribes in these states are adept at using bamboo and cane material to make beautiful bamboo and cane baskets, floor mats, dining table mats and coasters, lamp shades, bamboo screens etc. The simplicity of the brown shades of bamboo and cane become vibrant with the polychromatic horizontal and vertical patterns in the finished products. And no wonder, these states are known for their artwork on handwoven textiles, carpet weaving, brass cutting, wood carving, pottery, musical instruments carving, totems, ornaments and many other inspirations of art and crafts.
I had the opportunity to visit one of the North-East exhibition held in Chennai and as I stepped into the hall, I was greeted by a chroma of shades of gold and brown. The booths had neat displays of lucid but stimulating paintings, all handpainted on a set of bamboo straws tied together. I kept wondering how the paints did not blemish the bamboo straws and how the colors and the final picture looked so picture-perfect. Bamboo fans, coasters, little wall hangings also signified how small pieces could be so perfectly gleaned to make it an item of beauty, yet purposeful. I entered into a conversation with some artisans and realized that they did not know the local language Tamil or the national language Hindi, yet were smiling and trying their best to make us understand how the handmade craft was made.
I strolled on, occasionally stopping to chat with some of the locales from these states, and was enticed by a bamboo product that was in all bright shades of green and beige with pretty hand painted flowers on them. I thought they were long wall hangings to be adorned near the windows, but they turned out to be innovative bamboo dividers. They were offered in a set of twelve so that spaces could be modified and covered with privacy and elegance. WOW – what a novelty!
I also saw products made of cane like cane plates, treasure boxes, knick-knack boxes, wall hangings, purses, ornamental shelves, hair adornments all retaining their original brown grainy texture and ethnicity. It evoked memories of long grains of fields gently dancing to the breeze and humming a “whoosh” noise as they waved. Exclusive crafts were noticeable in the form of birdhouses, structures made out of pine tree roots and plastic leaves. The roots were painted with varnish to keep them termite-proof and decorated with plastic leaves and flowers, depicting a natural atmosphere of birds sitting on a tree, tree houses, etc. Unique carvings made from wood were a sight to behold, as were the terracotta idols and chimes. The craftsmanship in cane and bamboo furniture were also very earthy, leaving me with a feeling of how the adept hands of the artisans had turned naturally available things to an alluring piece of beauty.
“Go Green” was my takeout from this visit, and I clutched some of the precious bamboo and cane things I had brought from this exhibition, wondering where to bedeck them at my house.
Mother Nature blesses us with the abundance of natural products; Making beautiful things with the natural products is a gift that blooms only in the hand of creative artisans!
Blog contributed by: Rekha Chellappa, Craft Hobbyist, Chennai, India