The many faces of bottle gourds

Bottle gourds painted in the Myanmar traditional style displayed at the market. Photo: Myanmar Digital News
Bottle gourds painted in the Myanmar traditional style displayed at the market. Photo: Myanmar Digital News

A lady with a black high top knot wearing yellow flowers is smiling. It is just a palm sized dried bottle gourd from Shan State. But, a very creative artist created a beautiful smiling face of a lady from the bottle gourd.
“The form of the bottle gourd makes it easy to create a lady’s face on the high top knot. That’s why I decided to paint women’s faces on them,” Myanmar female artist Thiri Nandar Shwe War Bone said.
She has been painting on dried bottle gourd since 2016.
“I saw dried gourd at the Shwe Sar Yan pagoda festival for the first time. Then, I sprayed lacquer on them and decorated them with flowers. I saw some paintings on dried coconut or bamboo; that’s why I decided to paint faces on dried bottle gourd,” she explained.
She bought the gourds at the pagoda festival. A dried bottle gourd is priced from Ks.2000 to 5000 depending on the size and quality. It takes four days to turn out a bottle gourd painted with a beautiful face. She cleans the gourds and makes them dry before she sandpapers them. Afterwards, she leaves them in the sun for a day before she paints them yellow. Then she lets the paint dry for a day. After that, she sketches a face on the surface of the gourd with a pencil. Then she uses two coats of black paint for the hair and two coats of beige paint for the face. She never uses a hair dryer to make them dry.
Myanmar souvenir shops buy the artwork and they resell them between Ks.40, 000 and 70,000.But she sells her artwork to local people from Ks.13, 000 to 30,000.
The bottle gourds painted in the Myanmar traditional style are bought from traders in Japan and China. Local traders from Yangon and Hpakant also placed orders for the handcrafts in Myanmar cultural style. Sometimes, Japanese and Chinese traders order custom made handicrafts created in their respective cultural styles to sell in their own countries.
She plans to paint faces of national ethnics in Myanmar also, she added.
Thiri Nandar Shwe War Bone, who is the daughter of the artist Daw Khin Myo Myint Shwe, has received awards for her work of art. —Myanmar Digital News

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