Govt initiatives to revive masks give artisans new hope
The State government has taken various schemes that include providing training to giving financial assistance to the mask artisans. Steps have been taken to sell them and they are kept at the Biswa Banga stalls. A senior State government official said that as Mamata Banerjee knows the state better than the back of her right hand palm, she has instructed the department to take measures to revive the dying art form and then ensure that they are sold.
It may be recalled that those who go abroad bring masks from South America, Africa and Myanmar and Mexico.
The Gamira mask which is basically a wooden mask is produced by the artisans in Kushmandi and is associated with the Rajbanshi community in South Dinajpur. It is connected with the Gamira dance.
The mask is made of sponge wood. The artisans first prepare a model from mashed paper. A piece of cloth soaked in mud is used. After it is dried then bright colours are used and then a varnish is given.
A senior State government official said that many students from abroad had started visiting Kushmandi to interact with the mask artisans. Recently, a team of students led by Sumana Chatterjee who studies in Kornel University visited the area and made a documentary on them. Many domestic tourists are coming to the area just to see the making of the masks. Hubs have been created where the artisans come and work together.
Gambhira dance is famous in Malda and is performed during the Chaitra Sankranti that takes place in April. The wooden masks used in the dance are made from neem and fig trees and are produced by Sutradhar community. The wooden masks are given attractive colours. The Dokra masks of Bankura have become internationally famous because of Gita Karmakar who has made various contemporary sculptures with this art form. She was also awarded the President’s award. Shola masks which are used to make the face of ma Durga are well known.
The masks are produced in Murshidabad and are very popular throughout the country.
The masks of Bagpa dance are crafted from wood. The masks are very attractive and coloured in red, blue and white. It is also called lama dance and performed by the Lamas. The State government is trying to revive the old and dying art. The Dooars Museum and Research Centre has been set up by Kajimal Golay, a research scholar.
Banbibi pala masks in South 24 parganas, Chau dance masks of Purulia are also very popular.