The humble lauki (gourd) is the last thing you expect to be given a bun.
Yet, Daisy Christine Momin, a multidisciplinary artist from the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, sports exactly that around her bun hairstyle. As she demonstrates clay modeling techniques of slapping and rolling at a traditional craft shop in central Delhi, three brown toy-like gourds sway and dance elegantly on one side of her neatly tied bun . Using a wire, she cuts a square block of clay into small pieces. Later, she kneads them and crushes them again in rounded, double-bottomed gourds. “Previously, gourds were a very important utility item in the daily life of the Garo tribe. They used to carry the water in the gourd to the jhum fields,” Momin says in a chat at Meghalayan Age – The Store that was relaunched in December in a contemporary avatar in a line of old shops selling handicrafts from several Indian states.
“There are the long-necked gourds, the short-necked ones and then the abnormally shaped ones. The long-necked ones were used to take rice beer out of an earthen pitcher. But with the availability of more conventional utensils, storage spaces and containers, people there no longer felt the need to grow these gourds,” says Momin, who has worked with gourds in her art practice since the 90s. Today, her studio in Bonepa Atila, Tura, in the West Garo hills of Meghalaya, is filled with flower vases, hanging lamps, earrings and bracelets made from gourds; they almost look like light wooden toys. habit of collecting boxes full of gourds. But these days they are coming to market so fast. People visit my studio, see the works of art that have come to life with the vegetable, and they’ll buy it to hang as decorative pieces. outside their homes,” laughs Momin, who has inadvertently managed to rekindle interest and demand for the good old vegetable with his art.
Momin was at Meghalayan Age – The Store as part of his Maniani cultural festival which in the Garo language means celebration. Ceramic artist Arak Sangma and filmmaker Dominic Sangma whose MA. AMA won Best Film Garo at the 66th National Film Awards, was also part of the event. Meghalayan Age – The Store now stands out at Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan in Baba Kharak Singh Marg for its beautifully lit interiors renovated to a more minimalist look with a cafeteria and bookstore. A state government initiative, like most handicraft stores at this address, Meghalayan Age has curated agri-food products like Lakadong turmeric and Sohiong Jam alongside Larnai pottery and Ryndia silk in a more modern, studio-like. The store seeks to offer the most original and distinctive products to the market by showcasing the outstanding art and craftsmanship of Meghalayan artists in newer ways through lectures, film screenings, exhibitions and art demonstrations. artists, especially through the work of the three ancient mountain communities of Meghalaya.
Making handicrafts from gourds is an ancient practice. Artists from Mysore to Madhya Pradesh where it is called Tuma craft in Bastar have tapped into the untapped potential of gourds which are hardly seen as an investment by farmers at all levels. For artists like Momin, the possibilities of this underdog vegetable are limitless. She plans to make elaborate sculptures from now on. “Now everyone here in Delhi asks me if my bun is also on sale here at the store,” she laughs. Unfortunately, that was not the case.