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Traditional Lippaikaam used inside a Bhunga hut.

Traditional application of Lippaikaam.

Lippaikaam detailed with a final coat of white clay.

Kutch embroidery with forms that inspire Lippaikaam.

Contemporary use of Lippaikaam by Baaya Design at a residence.

Lippaikaam in use at NID, Ahmedabad.

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Showcase 31 Mar 2015

Lippaikaam – An artform from Kutch

Homes that can withstand the rigors of the climatic conditions in a desert and yet sparkle with dazzling mud-relief work created by loving and talented hands.

Traditional Lippaikaam used inside a Bhunga hut.

Origins of Lippaikaam

The arid, yet starkly beautiful desert regions of Kutch (northern parts of Gujarat, India) especially regions such as Sumrasar and Dhordo, hold traditional treasures in the form of loving constructed Bhunga huts which sparkle in the sun. And the beauty of the circular Bhunga huts with thatched roofs is complemented by the vibrant, embroidered costumes worn by the women of the region. The sparkle on the homes and on the traditional costumes, is due to the embedded mirror work used in both; the craft uses mirrors aligned in a unique way. Bhunga homes often comprise of single, individual cylindrical huts placed close together to form a home.

These homes sport the glittering craft of Lippaikaam or Lippankaam as it is locally called, which is the traditional mud-relief art work done in this region. It is created on the inner and outer walls as well as on furniture of the homes. These homes are typically occupied by the Rabari community that lives in Kutch. The homes’ interiors are resplendent with flowing white clay walls that seem to merge into their furniture. The use of intricate motifs that glitter with mirrors renders an overall dazzling effect. The completely unique art form makes the homes a visual treat. 

The Bhunga huts are not just beautiful homes but are safe ones too. The design of these huts is such that they can withstand catastrophic earthquakes. Apparently this design was conceived after a major earthquake in 1819. The houses are also climate responsive and provide good protection against sandstorms and cyclonic winds.

Traditional Technique

Lippai/Lippan means mud washing and kaam means work in Gujarati, and this is done by the women and men from Kutch on the walls of their mud huts. A rough, wet surface is the base on which the artwork is created. The tile-like base can be a rough plywood sheet or a cement sheet (a dried camel-dung base in earlier times), which is coated with a base layer of clay. A mixture of finely filtered local clay and camel/donkey dung is mixed together in equal parts and kneaded into a dough-like substance. The outline motifs are created by coiling the prepared clay mixture and then raising the soft clay by pinching it. An adhesive is used to make the clay stick to the base. First, a raised border is created, and then the motifs are made within it. This is done by the artisans using their hands, without any tracing or sketching in advance. Small round, diamond, or triangular shaped mirror pieces are cut by hand on a sharpened surface and embedded to create a sparkling effect, which is beautifully offset by the hot desert sun. Sometimes, coloured glass pieces or other reflective surfaces are also used. The artwork, is then dried in the sun for about 4–5 days, during which it hardens and becomes a strong surface. The original Lippaikaam is in natural mud colour, and the outcome is in shades and tints of beige.

Inspiration from Kutch Embroidery 

Intricate motifs and patterns are created, similar to the embroidery work on the clothes worn by the women of the community. Kutch is renowned for its stunning embroidery patterns, which are also embellished with mirrors. There are over 16 varieties of embroidery found in Kutch, the motifs of which are also common to Lippaikaam. White clay is coated on top of the the finished mirror embellished artwork, to get a pristine white look.

Traditional application of Lippaikaam.

Kutch embroidery with forms that inspire Lippaikaam.

Contemporary Lippaikaam 

Today this craft is being recreated in modern homes with interesting innovations—the clay surface is often painted over with vibrant pigments or acrylic colours. New motif inspirations are also seen in the art form. Baaya Design create contemporary renditions produced by artisans. Contemporary renditions of traditional motifs tend to be more abstract, more fluid, and are influenced by global motifs. The modern influence also brings with it protective coatings that can be given to the surface work, to ensure longevity of this stunning artwork for modern day homes.

Contemporary use of Lippaikaam by Baaya Design at a residence.

Lippaikaam in use at NID, Ahmedabad.

 

IMAGES

Video screenshots courtesy Amitabh Tripathi, INDOVISION MEDIA
Image from NID courtesy Bhushitendu Bhatt
Jainamishra – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antique_Kutch_Embroidery.jpg