The beauty of dokra is that every dokra artifact is unique in the world; no two dokras are the same. The reason for this is dokra is completely handcrafted and therefore, the shapes are not perfect, and the symmetries are not mirror images produced like in computer graphics. Dokra artifacts are made from brass and are inherently unique as each piece is made from a new mold, which is lost in the process.
Part 1 of this article explores the history behind Dokra Craft.
Dokra Art is created by using the Lost Wax Process (Cire Perdue). In India this elaborate and lengthy process of creating sculptures in metal dates back over 5000 years to the Indus Valley Civilization and not much has changed in it over the centuries. The most famous ancient Indian example of a Lost Wax Process sculpture is probably The Dancing Girl from Mohenjo-daro (Indus Valley Civilization).
The most important advantage of the lost-wax method is that it eases the casting of a sculpture with elaborate curves and great detail. There are many disadvantages – it is incredibly time consuming, requires a great degree of skill and patience, and even the very best artists lose a percentage of their attempts during the mold process. Each elaborate and time consuming mold will only produce one piece, thereby ensuring that no two sculptures will ever be exactly alike.
The name Dokra is derived from the Dokra Kumar tribesmen who are the traditional metal workers of the tiny tribal community of Bastar in India. This art form is now practiced in a tribal belt that runs through parts of four states in India.
The skills involved in the creative process of Dokra are passed on from generation to generation for many millennia. In the medieval Chola kingdom of southern India, the height of this art was reached in magnificent life-size lost-wax bronzes.
The art form lay mostly dormant for a while and the tribal artists were able to retain their skills primarily because they produced implements and sculptures for their own use, significant among which were figures of the Gods & Goddesses to whom the tribals prayed.
For the past few decades Dokra art has primarily existed for the tribal’s personal use and as a source of small souvenirs that are sold to tourists, both Indian and foreign. A few years ago a small revival began for the art form. Artists started creating larger art pieces and a select few buyers in India started collecting these treasures.