Un-masking the artist within at AF Panjim
India is a land of myriad cultural traditions. Traverse the length and breadth of the country and you will be astounded by the artistry on display. Alliance Française de Panjim recently brought one such art form from the eastern nook of the country to people on the western coastal state of Goa with a workshop on Gomira dance masks. Organised in collaboration with banglanatak.com on November 22, the workshop saw the artisans Kalyan Sarkar and Ananto Sarkar from Kushmandi (Dakshin Dinajpur, West Bengal) sharing their skills with an enthused group of participants.
banglanatak.com is a social enterprise which works at the grassroots level to foster pro-poor growth and to safeguard India’s intangible cultural heritage. The organisation uses a culture-based approach for development and community skill empowerment. Its vision is to utilise the potential of intangible cultural heritage for providing livelihood opportunities to rural and tribal communities rich in oral traditions, performing arts and traditional craftsmanship. Their approach aims at safeguarding this intangible cultural heritage and using it as a means of sustainable development.
The Gomira dance masks of Dinajpur district can be traced back to animistic practices of the Desi and Poli communities of the Rajbangshis. The Gomira dances or Mukha khel are organized to propitiate the deity to usher in ‘good forces’ and drive out ‘evil forces’ during the harvesting season. Every village of reasonable size has its own Gomira dance troupe. The dancers are all male without exception and portray many characters – male, female or animal. All the characters are larger than life and the size of the masks portrays this vastness. It needs a lot of effort to dance whilst wearing these heavy masks made of wood. Traditionally, the Gomira dance starts with the entry of two characters Bura-Buri, who are actually the human forms of the deities Shiva and Parvati.
During the workshop at AF Panjim, the participants were taught different carving techniques for small wooden masks using small tools. They were also taught how to paint small masks after finishing the carving process. To make them familiar with the context of the art form, the history and the stories related to the dance were explained. The master craftsmen talked about the different types of wooden masks. It is curious to note that these masks which started their journey from village dance performances have now found a place in urban drawing rooms as delectable pieces of decoration.
Rédaction, AF Magazine Inde-Népal