NABARANGPUR: THE Men’s Hockey World Cup has come as a blessing for the age old lac craft and its artisans in Nabarangpur. Women members of Sankhari community in the district headquarters town of Nabarangpur have been working day and night for the last one month to showcase the craft at the Hockey World Cup to be held in Bhubaneswar next month.
As many as 700 ornamental lacquer boxes will be presented to the guests and players, who will arrive at Kalinga Stadium in the Capital from across the globe to participate in the mega sports event.
Generally, lacquered articles are wooden ware ornamented with lac bases. However, lac workers from Nabarangpur make high quality lac boxes, chains, toys, sticks and other decorative products. The craft is unique as lacquer threads impregnated with different colours are used on the painted base and artistic designs are drawn up with lacquered threads.
The continuity of social customs of presenting the bride with lacquered ware by various communities has greatly contributed to the existence and extension of the craft, which has also attracted international tourists. In course of time, the lacquered ware had remained confined to a limited sphere, with people dependent on the craft making a meagre earning.
It has been an all-women dominated craft since its inception. In Nabarangpur town, the Sankhari community has kept the art alive.There was a time when the entire women folk of the community were involved in the handicraft. During 1970s and 1980s, the craft got a boost due to the cooperation and encouragement by State Handicraft Department and the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) of Ministry of Textiles that sold the lac articles in various parts of the country and outside.
However, in the last one and a half decades, the artisan families have been finding it tough to procure raw lac and market their products. Prabhati Patro, who got involved in the craft after her graduation, is now a leading artisan. She has travelled across the country to participate in exhibitions and has been felicitated on many occasions. She said the artisans are deprived of encouragement now. Earlier, their products were purchased by Utkalika but the artisans are not selling lac articles to the agency due to low procurement price for the last eight years.
Arati Sahu, another artisan, said procuring raw lac has now become very difficult. Artisans purchase it through middlemen and it is only available in Chandahandi area of the district, she said. Nabarangpur Collector Ajit Mishra said the district administration would take steps to encourage the artisans.