Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed learnt the craft of camel bone carving from Mr Abdul Khalib, a renowned carver. He has diversified and applied their skills to working with wood. He received a Merit certificate in1994. Ligi George is in conversation with the craftsman.
Why was ivory carved in earlier times?
The primary reason is aesthetics. Work on ivory looks good. It is also a wonderful, interesting and easy medium to work in.
What is the difference between ivory & camel bone?
There is a greater demand for ivory then camel bone – a sort of unstated hierarchy between mediums. People will select ivory pieces but the same work on camel bone doesn’t have such a demand. People don’t regard camel bone the same as ivory. Some of the piece will take 6 month to complete.
Working with ivory is easier than bone. Also ivory, because of its milky pure whiteness doesn’t need to be cleaned or polished. Ivory has to be stored in a cool place in summer because it breaks easily keep in hot weather so work has to undertaken in a cooled atmosphere.
But now, with restrictions on ivory carving we have adapted to newer, easily procurable raw materials like camel bone and wood. As the camel is a big animal and has large bones it became a valid substitute. According to the carve, when they have to make big pieces the removed extra parts are cut down to make small products like bead for necklaces, different type of clips, lockets, paper cutting knife, scissors, birds, book mark etc.
What is the Process & Technique of on Camel bone carving?
Camel bone is first cleaned with Hydroxyl to remove impurities attached to the bone. It is cut to the desired dimensions and then placed in boiled water with Sang Murmur (marble chips) powder overnight to remove any residual impurities. The powder is available in the market at Rs. 6-8 per kg. The boiling process is repeated as a final step to achieve the desired white colour. The strength of the whiteness depends upon the boiling of the bone. It is also washed with hydroxyl and water, water after which it is polished.
The bone is now ready to be carved. The design is first drawn on paper and then transferred onto the prepared bone surface. These design vary from flora and fauna to hunting scenes and processions.
To make the lamp 100 pieces of bone are used. Particularly the knee bone the camel is used for all purposes.
Where do you buy the bone?
Bone is bought from an abattoir at Rs. 7-8 per kg.
What is your current market?
The artisan have to travel to urban fairs and markets to make a sustained livelihood as there is no local demand for their products. The prices of the finished products, like a lamp costs Rs.10000 to 15000 is due to the workmanship. Village people don’t have enough money and the product made up with plastic will get easily and cheap.
Nowadays hair clips or necklaces are the most popular items. This craft has received a great deal of attention from abroad. The craftsman recollected this one time at Dilli Haat he got an export order. But that was extremely rare and a one-off.
As there is diminishing markets the knowledge is not being taught to the younger generation.