Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mirrorwork Murals of the Kutch

About 63 km north of Bhuj lies some remote Banni villages in the Kutch region of Gujarat. We made the dusty drive there to appreciate the architecture and handicrafts of the people living here. Many of the people still live in these circular bhoonga (also spelled bhungahuts, whose shape and mud walls are conducive to counteracting the oppressive heat of the region. In direct contrast to the drab surroundings, the exteriors of these conical dwellings are painted with brilliant colors. Traditional bhoongas have thick mud walls and conical thatched roofs, but some of the ones rebuilt after devastating earthquakes in 2001 were constructed from cement. 

Enter these bhoongas, and you'll be treated to some intricate mirrorwork murals. This mud relief mirrorwork is known as Lippan kam or Chittar kam. There are variations of this relief mudwork in various communities throughout the Kutch region. Equal mixtures of dung (either from wild ass or camels) is mixed with finely sifted clay. Men traditionally are in charge of gathering the clay and hauling it to the village. Some use millet husks, which provides a natural repellent to termites. Very fine coils are rolled on top of fresh slabs of clay. Round, diamond, or triangular mirrors known as aahbla are interspersed. Muslim artists generally constrain their motifs to geometric or floral designs. Women, often working together, form communal bonds as they work on the creative process, much like our quilting bees.

Lippan Kam is also functional. When placed on the outside, it acts as an insulator by reflecting heat. interior work helps magnify the effect of limited light sources. Imagine even how a single candle could magically light up an entire room, reflected by all the mirrors! 
A Rabari woman demonstrates how to make Lippan kam
A Banni woman with Paako embroidery

Interior of a Muslim Mutwa home

Lintel above a doorway
Mutwa embroidery
The designs of the Lippan kam are strongly reminiscent of their highly intricate embroidery. Beauty times two!

The Lippan Kam mirrorwork has currently appeared in two of my artworks, seen below.
Two of My Favorite Things. Color pencil, 2018 by Melissa Enderle

Bhunga and Bhandani. Color Pencil, 2017 by Melissa Enderle

See more of my artwork at

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