There are several places in Dagestan famous for their masters in clay modeling - an art that has reached an incredibly high level here over many hundreds of years. Aul Balkhar is one of such centers of pottery art. Alas, he is not very widely known outside the republic, but if you happen to visit Dagestan, be sure to look into this mountain village to see with your own eyes intricately painted dishes and amazing original figures.
It is believed that the manufacture of clay products in Dagestan began in the Neolithic era. At least some of the shards that are found in these parts date back to several millennia BC. According to an ancient legend, pottery was discovered by the local population by a poor man named Kalkucci, who once saw children on the shore of a reservoir, sculpting something out of clay, and decided to follow their example. Having mastered this skill to perfection, he told how to handle clay, the rest, and this art form was best given to women. Indeed, for a long time, pottery here was exclusively a female craft.
In recent years, male masters have become interested in Balkhar ceramics in Dagestan and, I must say, they have become quite good at it.
Aul Balkhar is located in the Akushinsky district of Dagestan. This region is famous for large deposits of clay, moreover, of several types. Laks live here - an ancient Caucasian people. Their lifestyle, clothing style, mentality have not changed much over the long years of existence of this aul.
Local craftswomen also honor traditions using the technology of their ancestors. Their ceramic products are laconic, they feel modest and simplicity, which is very harmoniously combined with sophistication and originality.
In Balkhar, they make everything from clay: jugs, mugs and other painted vessels, souvenir bells, children's whistles, figurines of people and pets (of course, horses and donkeys) and even whole art compositions.
It is interesting that the local craftswomen working on the potter's wheel do not pull the clay out of a single piece, but build up the shape using clay ropes. The surface of the vessels is most often polished with a piece of carnelian.
Lak craftswomen usually decorate dishes with white patterns, using shading, wavy lines, dots and other elements. To paint the figurines, a solution is made of clay of different colors (red, ocher, yellow, white). They draw immediately, without sketches - by eye. The painting of Balkhar dishes and figurines is pure improvisation and a flight of imagination.
Ceramic products are baked in ovens called "chara" by the locals. On the first level of such a furnace, a flame is located, and on the second level, products for firing are installed. It is customary to melt the stove on dung.
Everyone who has seen the figurines of the Laks notes that the clay characters are very kind and have some kind of special energy. The dishes also have their own characteristics: they are thin, graceful, lightweight and at the same time durable.
Historians note that the ceramics of the inhabitants of Balkhar are very similar in style to the antique ones, as well as to the pottery of the Cretan-Mycenaean culture, which developed in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC.
Now Balkhar ceramics can be found more and more often at exhibitions. Connoisseurs of pottery art not only from Russia turned their attention to it. And it’s even surprising that this original direction in ceramics remained “chamber” for many years.
The culture and traditions of the Caucasus have always attracted the interest of other peoples. We recommend reading the material about How the Caucasian highlanders chose their wives.
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