By Prateek Kumar
In a small hamlet named Sedeibereni lives Dhanasur Behra, who has dedicated his life to conserve the dying art of Dhokra (Crafting metal statuette with the aid of wax). He and his family work at a meager wage of about $50 a month to create beautifully crafted and imaginative pieces of metal depicting the cultural and multilingual diversities of India.
Like Behra there are a few other craftsmen who are struggling everyday to conserve this 200 year old legacy.
Settled near the temple of Saptasajya in Odisha, Sadeibereni is a forgotten land which is admired for its ancient art forms. The village and their oblivious art is the only source of their income which is now disappearing from the spectacle.
Sedeibereni craftsmen mould simple yet obscure designs of little elephants, show pieces and idols of Ganesh and Lakshmi which they sell for a modest price of $50-60 per kilogram. Ironically, their work of art is sold at almost $200-250 in the cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
Molding idols and dreams
These sculptures and idols which weigh about one or two kilograms are created through hand spinning the wax wires around the mold, after which they are rubbed on the buffing machine for a polished look. A single sculpture takes 15 days for its completion and is sold for three thousand to Indian customers and six to seven thousand to foreigners. “Sometimes it takes several months for us to sell a single piece as there is no tourism in this part of Odisha. We are a family of seven and earns three thousand a month which makes our lives really hard” says Babita, Dhanasur’s wife and co-worker.
Even after facing such hardships, Sadeibereni craftsmen find content in their work. For them the survival of the art matters more than the money.
“Once I went to London along with few others from our village to teach this discarded style of making sculptures. But still we live like a stranger in our own land and no one praises us. We are still fighting for bread and butter” Dhanasur says.
Each piece is different from the other. Unlike the classical tradition of metal casting the Dhokra craftsman gives free bridle to his thoughts that led the mixture of metals from scraps to make objects of Utilitarian and ritualistic purpose for several communities.
The village which is a home for more than hundred skilled craftsmen, exports these carvings to metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur etc. “The state government has been very supportive in the endeavor to promote this artwork, they even provide them financial support whenever required along with medical and shelter facilities under Indira Awaas Yojana ” says Birendra, a dealer.