Manipur has a long recorded history of metal casting and metal work which are found in numerous historical ancient texts. Among them, bronze casting is one such art form which has been practiced since time immemorial by the forefathers. However, the ancient art form is still under represented in art institutions across the state. Amid the concern, a renewed push to promote the growth of the art form of bronze casting is seen in the state.
As a part of the effort to restore the age-old popularity of the ancient art form, a nine-day-long, the first of its kind workshop-cum-seminar on bronze casting was organised by the Department of Fine Arts, Manipur University, from March 23-31, 2023.
Speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press, renowned Manipuri sculptor B Banamali Sharma, who was one of the resource persons at the workshop-cum-seminar on bronze casting, informed that the LPG fire furnace installed at the MU Fine Arts department will be used for the first time during the workshop. The furnace has a maximum capacity of 100 kg, he added.
“Although 90 per cent of requisite equipment for the studio has been procured, the art form is still under represented in art institution across the state,” the sculptor lamented.
Banamali, however, exuded confidence that the work studio and equipment at MU will spark new interests among upcoming artists and budding talent. Upgrade in studio and equipment will happen as the art gains popularity, he added.
Experts will impart technical and practical knowledge on bronze casting during the seminar-cum-workshop, he said.
Banamali, however, maintained that theoretical knowledge will not suffice bronze casting.
“Knowledge on use of different machineries, time sufficiency and financial responsibility are all important facets of bronze casting,” he explained, stressing the need to restore the popularity of the art form in Manipur.
He further said that participants would have to produce one or more finished bronze artwork during the workshop which would be put up for exhibition.
Claiming that Manipur is one of the top states in the Northeast region in bronze casting, Banamali pointed out that there are several successful sculptors who run big private studios operating in several parts of the state.
“20-30 feet high bronze statues can be casted in Manipur; the state has the facility and the technical know-how to pull off the task,” he further said.
Emphasizing the potential of the state, Banamali revealed to the Imphal Free Press that the present statue of Maharaj Nara Singh at Kangla Fort was made in Manipur at his art studio.
Throwing light on the history of bronze casting in Manipur, the sculptor mentions bronze casting are found in numerous ancient texts such ‘Panthoibi Khongul’ and ‘Cheitharol Kumpaba’ among others.
The sculptor also mentioned that use of modern technology in bronze casting in Manipur started around 1998-1999. Although numerous well-established sculptors were there, the advent of modern technology started around this period, he added.
Meanwhile, assistant professor (guest) Naorem Gautam informed that around 15 participants were participating in the workshop and seminar. Most of the participants belong to fine arts students from the university, he said, adding, “This is the first workshop of its kind at the department”.
Expressing concern over the challenges facing the artists, Gautam told the IFP that the participant intake was limited due to financial restraint.
“The budget allotted by the university is not enough but we will increase the intake as budget increases…The cost of bronze provided to the participants and equipment used during the workshop is expensive,” he said.
Further detailing the workshop, Gautam explained that lost wax technique of producing moulds using Plaster of Paris (POP) and brick dust will be taught to participants during the workshop.
“The students will be taught both practical and theory of bronze casting during the workshop and seminar,“ the professor said.