AS460 Museum Studies John Hopkins University USA
Write an Essay analyzing a Dokra object using McClung Flemings model of Artefact Study.
This essay analyzes a Dokra object using McClung Flemings model of Artefact Study (Neswald 2020). The Dokra object gifted to me by my grandmother is a one-of-a-kind ancient art form that has not only survived but also found a place as a home object even after 4000 years due to its distinct style (Baise 2020). The piece is a wonderful work of art steeped with the cultural character of individuals who created it. The term Dhokra refers to a series of metal objects that comprise beautifully shaped and decorated brassware products made using the lost wax technique, also known as cire perdure, an ancient method of pouring metal alloys into a wax mould to produce a design. Over the years, the method has been used to create sculptures, ornaments, and jewellery using metals such as silver, gold, brass, and bronze. "The object created by tribal people of Eastern and Central India, are famous for strength and durability"(Mukhedee 2014, pp 777). Dhokra artists have labored under a strict technological framework in accordance with traditions as they transformed from nomads to settlers gradually. Their art form also has evolved with time, as evidenced by this ashtray (FIG 1). Today's dokra artists have responded to innovative forms and motifs by incorporating them into everyday goods, allowing them to modernize the ancient art form. Several layers of stories are attached to the metallic Dhokra ashtray. This dull matted metal piece with no sheen tells a story of artisanship, survival, and cultural expression. The light weight Dokra ashtray with excellent balance is easy to transport, thus adding to its usability and appeal.
The Dokra artefact will be examined using McClung Flemings model of Artefact Study as it is best suited to examine the object's physical properties and cultural background in a comprehensive way (Fleming 2021). Flemings model is particularly extensive because it incorporates both a detailed examination of the object's formal features as well as an examination of the object's cultural context (Fleming 2021). The model also considers the observer's own culture when interpreting the object. The model's categories are clearly defined and allow the inclusion of different techniques or theoretical perspectives. We can use semiotic tools to investigate the object's role as "vehicles of communication" of various cultural values and beliefs. Because of the model's wide breadth, some sections may require extra delineation, depending on the object selected. However, due to its simplicity and clarity, it is a good model for the object in study.
The model employs two conceptual tools: a five-level classification of an artifact's basic features and a set of four operations that can be applied to it. The four operations to be performed on the five properties yield answers to most important questions about the artifact studied. These operations include Identification (classification, authentication, and description) resulting in a body of distinctive facts like size, provenance, date of production of the artifact ; Evaluation resulting in a set of judgements about the artefact based on comparisons with other artefacts of its kind like the iconic dancing girl sculpture found in Mohenjo-Daro ; Cultural analysis examining various interrelationships of an artifact and its contemporary culture; and Interpretation suggesting the meaning and significance of the artifact in relation to aspects of our own culture. Identification of an object is of central focus under this method. The dokra objects made using lost wax technique include manufacturing of sculptures, ornaments, and jewelry over the years with the use of metals like silver, gold, brass, and bronze. Evaluation under this method is of two types; one is Judgement of aesthetic quality and workmanship and the other is of quantifiable terms such as relative size, cost, rarity, or temporal primacy. The Dokra object is in excellent form with little or no physical damage. Regular cleaning of the object with a liquid meant for metallic objects on a weekly basis has affected the sheen of the object due to its age (purchased in the year 2006). The workmanship of the object is strong and sturdy, having no dents despite rough use. The height of this object is 5.5 cm (about half the length of the long edge of a credit card) and dokra objects of height up to 10-12 cm (about the length of the long edge of a credit card) are available. The bigger the size, the costlier it is. The Dokra is a rich tradition and marketplaces have many unique designs to offer. Workmanship remains the same in every market that sells dokra objects. Cultural analysis and the object interpretation of the Dokra object reflect a rich history going back to almost 4,000 years. Though my grandma gifted it to me as a decoration piece when I was 10, this object has now attained a utilitarian role and is being used as an ashtray. Several art forms have died over the centuries; however, the dokra tradition is still alive due to the passion of artisans who have not let the rich and ancient tradition die.
Though Flemings model offers a comprehensive and in-depth study of an artefact, it also has few limitations in the form of too many places of overlap, which may lead to redundant repetition. The object responds to the Flemings's model to a great extent. However, in some respects like interpretation, the object may be interpreted differently. The model adopts a cross-referencing approach and applying series of properties and analysis, like analyzing the construction and designs of two sections of an artefact maybe cumbersome due to the similarities between the two section. However, it was useful in evaluating and understanding the Dokra object that was not only important in the ancient world but remains so today owing to conservation and context. The lost-wax casting process was also used to create the iconic dancing girl sculpture found in Mohenjo-Daro. The dancing girl is one of the first found artefacts of the Indus valley civilization which gives a sneak peekinto the culture of ancient times. The 4000-year-old technique is still being used by artisans in Odisha, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh to create a range of brass and bell metal art and jewelry immensely popular among tribals, locals and tourists.
The Dokra tradition is an ancient art form that originated 4000 years ago. The term Dhokra refers to a series of metal objects that comprise beautifully shaped and decorated brassware products made using the lost wax technique, also known as cire perdure, an ancient method of pouring metal alloys into a wax mould to produce a design. The term Dhokra refers to a series of metal objects that comprise beautifully shaped and decorated brassware products made using the lost wax technique, also known as cire perdure, an ancient method of pouring metal alloys into a wax mould to produce a design. The lost-wax casting process was also used to create the iconic dancing girl sculpture found in M ohenjo-Daro. The dancing girl is one of the first found artefacts of the Indus valley civilization which gives a sneak peek into the culture of ancient times. The 4000-year-old technique is still being used by artisans in Odisha, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh to create a range of brass and bell metal art and jewelry immensely popular among tribals, locals and tourists. "The technique of the craft goes back thousands of years in India with the earliest item found dating to Mohenjo-Daro. Similar styles have been found in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and Greece" (Sinha, Chakrabortty and Sinha, 2015, pp-34).
Material construction and design-
The item is constructed of bell metal, which was cast utilising a difficult yet flawless lost-wax casting process. Bell metal is a kind of bronze with a greater tin concentration than regular bronze. This item was handmade using the lost wax casting technique, which has been used in India for over 4000 years. Dhokra artists are first and foremost artists, with a secondary focus on metalwork. The ashtrays distinctive anthropomorphic shape is created via the expert application of beeswax rather than metalworking. Beeswax enables artists to give
tangible form to the imaginative pictures they conjure up in their heads. The artisan began by creating a wax replica of the item. The original model or sculpture was turned into a clay mould. This clay cover was baked in the sun before being re-fired at a high temperature in a kiln. Because of the extreme heat, the wax melted, so the artisans poured molten metal into the perforations to substitute it. Eventually, the clay cast was shattered in order to extract the metal while it was still cool (Chakraborty 2015). This artwork was created using basic tools by the artists. They used a spatula and knife to shape the clay, a blade to sculpt the wax, and a flat piece of wood to prepare the wax strands. They also broke the mould with a hammer and polished the item by hand using a file (Mukherjee 2016). The figure is simple, with no notable definition of shape and is nearly primal in its minimalism, in accordance with being considered effective. The eyes protrude, the lips are large and plump,. the hands are snaggle, and the back is flat with no distinguishing characteristics other than rows of serrations. The figure seems to have sprung straight out of Africa, which is an intriguing reminder to how, despite their differences, human society and development are inextricably linked (Mukherjee 2014). The design and motif reflect the simple life of the craftsmen who lived a nomadic life. Gradually, the craftsmen transformed the traditional methods and incorporated modern designs with traditional motifs to create contemporary pieces such as this ashtray.
Along with its basic elegance, the earliest type of metal casting, Dhokra, is appealing (Baise 2020). This art form is unique to central India's semi-tribal tribes in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, and portions of the Vindhya Range. Due to its somewhat unique folk nature, it is a highly significant handicraft. Bihar, Orissa, and West Bengal's Dhokras are The Dokra object gifted to me by
distant relatives of Madhya Pradesh's Dhokras. They may all be members of a local tribal tribe. Recently, various practical items such as candle stands, ash trays, and pen stands have been created while maintaining the fundamental folk style.