Leather Carving in Thailand
|The carving of nang talung, or shadow puppets, is another traditional art,
dating back to the early 19th century. The leather that is used has to be either
cowhide or buffalo hide, and neither too thick nor too thin. The translucent
hide is intricately carved with the figure of some character or a scene from a
theatrical play or folk tale. Black paint and paints of various colors are
applied to the leather. The finished puppet is mounted on a slender stick for
manipulating before a strong light, which throws the shadow onto a screen.
There are two kinds of leather carvings: nang yai and nang talung. Nang talung is particularly popular in southern Thailand and originated in Phatthalung Province. Nang yai is now rarely seen anywhere, as skilled carvers of nang yai are few in number and because the shadow play is rarely staged nowadays. In contrast, nang talung is still performed at festivals in the South.
Most nang talung pieces are carved out of buffalo hides that have been carefully cured and dried to give the puppet figures a permanent shape. The artisans who do the carving have to be highly experienced in preparing suitable hides, working the scroll saw, drawing delicate figures, and picking the right colors that suit the character carved in the leather, which can variously be the male principal, heroine, yaksa (giant), clown, or almost any legendary being.
The highly demanding task of carving leather, which requires the knowledge and skill of a master, as well as the decline in popularity of the entertainment form, threatens this piece of Thailand's natio-nal heritage with extinction. In character with Her Majesty's unbounded concern for the preservation of folk arts, she thought it fit to revive the traditional craft of nang talung leather carving. Accordingly, she added the nang talung leather carving section to the existing wood carving and soapstone carving sections and invited experts to teach the skill to new generations of apprentices. The traditional art of nang talung leather carving is taught along with the fresh developmentsfrom smaller-scale puppets to the carving of large leather puppets that record more recent lifestyles and customson top of the standard episodes from classical literature.
The leather carving section at the Chitralada Center has redesigned the carvings to better respond to modern tastes, and they are marketed as home decorations, particularly in the form of decorative wall hangings and gifts aimed at foreigners and those appreciating creative design features.
INDEX : Chiang Mai City : Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:00:10 AM