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     Volume 4 Issue 25 | December 17, 2004 |

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The 'Mritraj' Predicts a Bright Future

Sabira Manir

With love for their roots, Bangladeshis have always embraced clay art with warmth. Nowadays people use clay items extensively for their home decoration. It has become quite fashionable to use clay pottery and sculptures in home décor. Terracotta is also bringing a very classic tone to the houses of the well-to-do. When it comes to talk clay art, Maran Chand Pal is the foremost name in the country.

'Mritraj' (Clay king) is written in bold letters in the clay made name plate of Pal's house. This is his studio. He calls himself 'Mritraj', not out of vanity but to pay homage to clay.

Born in a traditional Pal family, Maran Chand learned the art of clay from a very early age. He recalls the 60s when he and his friends of the Pal families used to collect clay from a river that ran through Rayer Bazar. He says, 'At that time, the entire west Dhanmondi area and right up to the Mohammadpur bus stand was a Kumar Palli." He regrets, 'Now most of the families have moved away from this place and abandoned their professions. Some don't even have any address.'

Maran Chand is the last of the Pals of his family. He sadly informs, "None of my other four brothers has learned this craft. In fact my only son is not even interested in it." "But, I have trained around five to six hundred boys and girls in the craft," he adds with pride.

Talking about the tradition of clay art and pottery, Maran Chand says, "It is the craft of my ancestors. Pals have been working on this craft for countless generations." During my great grandfather's time although all the Pals used to make utensils he tried to do something modern. "He was the first flower pot maker of Dhaka," says Maran Chand Pal. Maran Chand has also earned fame by making flower-vases of diverse shape along clay dolls. Apart from this, he also made peacock, elephant, horse, turtle, ashtray and many other attractive decoration pieces. The detailed craftsmanship of his works speaks for themselves.

Maran Chand has a soft corner for the works that illustrate our national spirit. His first terracotta mural work with clay was demonstrated in 1973 in independent Bangladesh. He manufactured this epic-like mural at the TV Bhaban illustrating a mother and her child, a freedom fighter and a peasant.

It was Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin who first spotted him informs the. And he subsequently joined the Institute of Fine Arts and completed the three-year course with first class. He later joined as a teacher in the ceramics department. He did his certificate course on clay art in 1963 and did a course from the Government Pottery Development Centre in 1979. In the mid 60s he participated in many contemporary art exhibitions, both at home and abroad. Each year, from 1967 to 1974, he was awarded the best clay artist in the National Handicraft Exhibition. In 1986 he received the Shilu Abed Award for excellence in clay art.

His craftworks reached the international arena in the 60s. There was a handicrafts shop 'Champak' in the then Hotel Intercontinental. Maran Chand Pal supplied Tepa Putul (Clay doll) to the shop. Since then, the Bangladeshi clay-craft spread all over the world.

Mentioning the present and future prospect of potters and clay artists of Bangladesh, Maran Chand Pal portrays a bright picture. He says with enthusiasm, "The works of craftsmen are being regularly exported abroad. In fact, there is a growing domestic market. As a result, artists working in this medium have a bright future."


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