Though there are very few potters among the tribals, the tribal people extend their patronage to the other potters. They have long used the elemental quality of earth as a substance in the execution of both ritual and utilitarian objects. A variety of roof tiles, utensils such as pots, bowls, plates and jars, and cooking stoves meet specific requirements of daily life. Simultaneously the potter creates votive offerings in strong forms of bulls, elephants and horses as well as terracotta temples and toys.
CANE, BAMBOO, REEDS, GRASSES AND WOOD
Bamboo and cane have all the fertile, lively and tactile qualities of nature's raw materials, which crafts persons have successfully harnessed. The structural qualities of bamboo, its high-tensile strength and pliability have led to its widespread use for architectural purposes. Besides which, bamboo splits are woven together to make baskets of diverse shapes and sizes depending on the nature of goods they are required to carry or store.
Similarly, the elasticity and sturdiness of cane has been utilized in the manufacture of a variety of domestic goods, while countless local fibres and reeds are used by people with household skills to make ropes, strings, brooms and the like. These products are largely geared for local consumption. However, the potential of these materials is so great that new applications can be explored for the new customers.
The application of plasters to her dwellings is often the rural woman's medium of creative expression reflecting both in terms of colours and symbols, the close identification of man with nature. From clay come the colours ochre, geru, charcoal grey and white, which are either used naturally or mixed with pigments purchased from the markets.
The images created by her are timeless, yet, ephemeral, with the sun and the rain taking their toll. The predominantly geometric forms - a straight line, a square covered in dots, waves, triangles pointing to the sky and downwards - can have the most disparate of meanings but the symbolism of fertility is implicit in all of them. The tools used for applying the plasters whether on hut walls or floors are basic. They use twigs, fingers, whole hands and rags.
The "Desiya Natya" of tribal Orissa derives its distinctive style in some part from "Prahlada Natakams" and "Jatras" of the Hindus. Its colourful costumes - embroidered headdresses and painted masks, which adorn the key actors, and the use of imaginative props are a craft in themselves. Masks carved out of papier-mâché and 'Sholapith', the weightless bark of a water plant, represent various gods, goddesses, demons and animals.
SEEDS, HERBS AND MEDICAMENTS
In Koraput district alone, at least 200 different varieties of rice are produced or grow wild. Some are for consumption during festivals and marriages, others for their taste, colour or smell, and yet others are grown for their pesticidal or soil-fertilization characteristics. The traditional dependence of many indigenous communities on biological resources is also evidenced in the use of several plants, which have medicinal values. For instance, the stem of the 'Hadbhanga' plant is applied to fractured bones for quicker mending and the fruit of the 'Utkapali' is used to cure migraine.
The knowledge and use of vegetable and mineral dyes goes back to pre-historic times in India where, according to data collected so far, there are nearly 300 dye-yielding plants available. However, after chemical colours wave flooded the markets, only a small number of dyers continued with natural dyes such as indigo. Cotton yarn dyed in madder is still used by the weavers of Kotpad in Koraput district.
LEAF STRAW AND DRIED FLOWERS
Tribal women have been the traditional gatherers of leaves whose delicate hues and unique qualities have been used in a multitude of ways for the manufacture of useful products. Farm labourers and cattle grazers wear hats made of dried leaves, which provide protection from the sun and are waterproof. In temples and at village feasts, food is still served in leaf plates and bowls.
Horn articles of Orissa are mystical and are blended with a superb fashion design. Their lively appearance, dynamism and animation vie with the real objects of nature - that spells the names of Parlakhemundi and Cuttack. Available in widest spectrum of items like combs, pen stands, cigar pipes, decorative figures - horn articles form a memorable memento for the near and dear ones at home.
Lacquer is the refuse of an insect gathered by the tribals in the forests. The Hindu women of Baleshwar and Nowrangpur districts mix it with colours and apply it on small cane boxes made by tribals, and terracotta figures, which they make themselves. After several coats of lacquer have sealed the core, the surface is decorated with motifs borrowed from nature, geometric patterns and religious symbols. Although the visual power of colour and design combine to make an ornamental effect, the artisans are only just exploring the area of material, form and technique.
This skill has been creatively practised by crafts persons from all over Orissa. Paper, waste cloth and different kinds of natural fibres are soaked and beaten into pulp, then mixed with a variety of seeds and gums for strength and as protection from termites. Special clays and bio-wastes are added for body and reinforcement. The entire process results in a medium so malleable that it requires little skill to be moulded into countless forms. However, despite its versatility this craft has remained neglected.