The rapid pace and (sometimes) unforgiving nature of urban cities can overlook some wondrous art that the rest of India has to offer. While contemporary and modern art forms are finding their footing in the country, and deservedly so, there are several art forms with decades of legacy attached to them that are on the brink of being forgotten.
One such intricate form is that of Lippan Kaam (or Lippan art) from Gujarat. A form of art seen commonly across rural parts of Gujarat, lippan translates to ‘dung’ or ‘clay’ in the local dialect –– signifying the primary material used. These are usually paired with mirrors to produce intricate designs that are later coloured.
The art form seems to have come to be because of the Kumbhar community who were earthen pot-makers from Sindh. From pots, they moved the art form to larger canvases such as interior and exterior walls of homes. Apart from the Kumbhars, the Rabari, Mutwa, and Marwada communities also partake in lippan. It is believed that lippan began with the intention of brightening homes that seemed morose and dull; both in appearance and morale.
The process begins with making a dough-like mixture of dung and clay which can be laid onto a flat surface such as walls. After a border, called kaam or kaamtane, is made, this dough is rolled out as desired and laid onto the pattern. Then, the addition of mirrors takes place. Placed in cohesive designs and complementary to the kaamtane, these mirrors provide a contrasting texture to that of the clay and create an unexpected yet beautiful interplay. Earlier, with the unavailability of pre-cut mirrors, a large mirror would be shattered using stones, and the pieces would then be collected to use in the lippan.
The lippan dough has seen an evolution. Now, instead of using dung and clay, artists use clay, chalk powder, sawdust, and glue. This does not stem from a place of ridding lippan of traditional materials. Rather, it comes from a place of making the art longer-lasting, odour-free, and maintenance-free.
The art was on a journey of decline until 2005, when the Rann Utsav was launched. Here, the art and the artists gained much-deserved recognition and appreciation. Now, lippan art is sold with great value across India and there are more than a few who are still masters of it.
Gita Dhupar’s Lippan Art Palace is a concerted effort to keep the art alive, not simply by creating and selling but also through regular workshops where people are encouraged to learn this elaborate form of art and perhaps integrate it into their daily lives.
Peepul Tree is yet another platform where lippan gets its rightful recognition. With the help of Indian artisans who excel in their fields, Peepul Tree brings to mainstream India what has remained hidden for far too long.
Lippan Kaam from the Rann of Kutch combines the subtlety of mud and clay with the vibrancy of mirrors and colours. Its cultural significance is rather immense and we may even see modern pieces inspired by it yet the originals often lose out on awareness. India’s art forms are plenty; each as wondrous as the next and they must be protected.
Lippan Kaam may have begun as a means to beautify old homes, but we hope to see it sustain itself as a well-known, sought-after, and respected traditional form of regional Indian art.
Find Gita Dhupar here.
Find Peepul Tree here.
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