Tholu Bommalata is a tradition from Andhra Pradesh, of shadow puppetry dating back to 12th century. In Telugu, tholu is leather and bommalata means ‘dance of the dolls’. These leather puppets are large in their make and made from translucent goatskin. The distinctive details are painted in bright colours, and perforations are later added to these striking puppets.
The craft was part of Andhra’s cultural heritage, as leather puppetry united the arts of painting and sculpture, with theatre. It also called for seasoned and deft hands for manipulating puppets, and puppet-making.
Gleaming through the screen in night-long performances, they are used to narrate stories from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Animals, birds, gods, and demons dominate the screen. A fine white cloth measuring 12x9 ft lit from the back with a bulb or oil lamp arranged so that the size, position, and angle of the puppets change with the distance of the light, functions as a screen. Both sides of the puppet are painted by us to enhance the projection of the figure. The puppet is then inserted in between two bamboo splits for stiffness, and movement. They can range from 3 to 6 ft in size.
REVIVING THE LOST ART
In this new easy-to-go world, the elegance of traditional craftsmanship seeks to acquire its appreciation. The art form has been minimised to make lampshades in today’s time. We practice to revive this lost art form and give a chance to it’s artists to open the potential of the puppetry form to a larger audience and styles of presentation.
A wonderful way to highlight this craft is in the form of a shadow- box framing of these marvellous paintings that depict stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Influenced by the ability of light and shadows for highlighting the story and characters, a shadow box uses backlighting enhancing the effect of the translucent leather and it’s bright colours.
The translucent leather painting has been mounted on a transparent acrylic sheet. The mounted painting is supported by 1-inch pegs from the frame, fit with backlights. This gives depth to the art highlighting the colours and the minute details of the painting, bringing it to life.
The current size of the painting is 28” X 48”.
The final size of the setup will depend on the frame size which has 2 options
The frame and background colour can be customised as per choice, but we would recommend off white, as a neutral colour would beautifully showcase the bright colours of the artwork.
Tholu Bommalata, ART, Painting, Natural Colors
Leather, Vegetable Colors