Friday, June 19, 2020

INDIAN ARTIST - handmade paper as an artistic means of expression/research/short version

 INDIAN ARTIST - handmade paper as an artistic means of expression

Visiting the Kochi Muziris Biennale and the Delhi Art Fair 2018-19 I noticed a growing interest in using handmade paper as an artistic means of expression among the exhibiting Indian artists.. Here I’m not talking about artists buying handmade paper to draw and paint on, but artists who use pulp, their own produced paper or manipulate pulp and paper in untraditional ways as an artistic statement.

Since 2000 I have returned to India each year, focusing on and following the development of its contemporary art scene as well as tried to locate the remnants of the old papermaking tradition in India during extensive travels.
In an attempt to get an insight in the development of handmade paper as an artistic means of expression in India, a questionnaire was sent with to the following artists:

Anupam Chakraborty, Jenny Pintu, Kulu Ojha, Neeta Premchand, Radha Panday, Ravikumar Kashi, Shantamani Muddaiah and Sudipta Das.

              Sudipta Das, Soaring to Nowhere, Hanji paper and watercolour, 48 x 48 x 36 inches, 2018. Courtesy Lattitude Gallery 

The following is answers by the questioned artists to 13 questions:

1: Where and from whom did you learn to make paper?
When I compare the answers to question 1 the majority of the questioned artists have learnt papermaking abroad: three from Jacki Parry at Glasgow School of Art, an Australian born artist, printmaker, papermaker, former lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art and a founding member of the Glasgow Print Studio and the Paper Workshop, two in Korea by Chang Son and Seong Woo and also Puli Paper Mill in Taiwan, one at the Paper Institute in Kochi, Japan, from Hamada San, and one in USA by Catherine Nash and Timothy Barrett. One is self-taught and has taken a workshop at Kumarappa Handmade Paper Inst., Sanganer, Jaipur.
2: Why did you choose to work with paper – what is it you find interesting about paper?
Sudipta Das answers: My encounter with the contextualised use of paper as a medium for my work started as a solution to the technical difficulty I was facing during my education in Santiniketan. As I started working with memories, personal histories and the layered presence of history in our identity, I was collecting historical evidence and other documents which have carried history through photography. It is from this desire to use those photographic images that I started working with paper. Soon I found that paper is one of the best mediums for my expression as its fragility and its ability to absorb tints of colours can be contextualised with the histories of fragmentation and the layers of memory that I worked with. It is from this aspect that paper becomes an important way for me to express and contextualise my personal histories of migration and the anxieties of being an immigrant.
Anupam Chakraborty, who has chosen to place paper in the centre of his artistic praxis since 20 years cannot think of any other medium that can be equally fascinating. He states: only those who have made paper themselves can get the experience of the versatility of papermaking. Ravikumar Kashi points out the tactile quality, the malleability and organic nature with a long and ancient history, connected to knowledge/books. He finds it a challenge to lift handmade paper out of its stigma as belonging to craft. All the questioned artists find that pulp and paper contain tactility, texture - ality, fragility, two - and three dimensional possibilities and that the more you experiment with it the more doors will open for manipulation.
3: Do you consider yourself a hand papermaker or a paper artist, and do you feel there is a difference?
There is a widespread agreement among the interviewed artists that there is a difference between a hand papermaker and a paper artist.
None of them consider themselves hand papermakers. Radha states: hand papermakers work with qualities of the sheet that make it suitable for specific works. Jenny considers herself a paper artist and that the difference is in vision, interpretation and output; she says that one has to understand the material. Ravikumar considers himself a paper artist, but he does not want to be labelled as one, as he also uses other materials. He says that a hand papermaker makes paper for its own sake. Anupam considers himself a paper artist and that refers to a creative individual, involved with handmade paper as a means of artistic expression. Kulu says that technically he might be a considered a paper artist; his actions are solutions to a number of environmental issues. Shantamani is a sculptor and installation artist, who explores fibres and pulp for architectural and sculptural forms, and she states the same as Kulu that her actions are solutions to a number of environmental issues. Sudipta will rather call herself a visual artist, but do not oppose to anyone calling her paper artist, as she primarily work with paper. She writes that categorisation just on the basis of mediums are shallow and constricting without the understanding of how paper or papermaking becomes a medium of expression.
Jenny is right, that the more one knows one’s material the choice of artistic output grows and becomes richer. It means a lot to commit oneself to work professionally with paper and it will, if you give in to this medium, absorb you profoundly as one will discover that it contains everything and can be everything. As Kulu says: the language of paper surpasses the language of man.
Concerning categorization: society loves categorizations to get things under control. The importance here is that an artist is proud of her or his professional choice. I find a slight hesitation in the answers among the questioned artists towards being labelled and I think it is due to the ingrained Indian perception of craft versus art issue, which we will touch upon in the following. Neeta has an interesting remark: during her studies she wanted to know the difference between how paper was looked upon in India and Japan. In Japan it is an art to make paper and there is respect for the craft and the craftsman. She finds that there is a lack of respect for paper in India.

“Life in Our hands" a community project done with Settle Stories, Yorkshire, UK
Video with Cotton rag pulp
4x3 meters, 2019
Photo credit: Mallikarjun Katakol

4. Do you teach others papermaking?
All the inquired artists have given paper workshops in one way or another  apart from Kulu, who is”trending “ people to use paper as their primary subject for art. Jenny teaches only design interns and has given bookbinding workshops. Shantamani has guided a rural woman sustainable project through paper products and given few workshops. Sudipta teaches children now and then and organizations on invitation, Radha teaches and give lectures in India and aboad and Neeta has given workshops in England, Switzerland and India. Ravikumar have conducted workshops in his studio, at art schools, architectural colleges and art museums.
Since 2005 Anupam, who has founded the Nirupama Academy of Handmade Paper in Kolkata, is offering hands-on training/ workshops to individuals, groups, students at academic institutions, government and non- government  organizations employees at his Academy and elsewhere. He states that he has taught more than thousand individuals.

5: Have you studied the history of paper in India or abroad?  If you have ever visited paper mills and paper artists in other countries, what were your impressions?
Radha: I studied Japanese papermaking formally first with Catherine Nash at Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine, US for three weeks (2005). Four years after this I went to the Philippines to study with Asao Shimura for 2-3 weeks. I learned how to make western style papers but using a su/geta( Japanes mould for papermaking)  with banana fibres, Kozo as well as pineapple fibres. I also learned how to make shifu (Japanese paper thread), and learned about growing and using konnyaku( Japanese impregnated paper). It was a huge learning to see artiss in their own studios and spaces and notice how their work space was made to fit their needs. Asao got a lot done with very simple set ups and very simple machines. 
The next paper-related international travel was to the Friends of Dard Hunter conference in 2010 where I met Timothy Barrett, Peter Thomas, David Reina, Jim Croft and Catherine Nash again and others. Here I decided to apply to the University of Iowa Center for the Book graduate program and started there in 2011.  The following year I visited the historic mill in Capellades, Spain. It was amazing to see all the history we had been learning about in school come to life.  The year after that I went for the IAPMA* conference in Fabriano, Italy, another eye opening experience to see historical examples of watermarking technology and tools; as well as meeting others in the field and hear about their work in paper. As for books along the way before I went to Iowa - I read
 A Papermakers Companion, by Helen Heibert, The Complete Book of Papermaking by Josep Asunción, Off the Deckle Edge by Neeta Premchand

Ravikumar says in one of his answer: People find it (making paper) interesting, but not many continue the exploration.
Anupam has after his stay with Jacki Parri for half a year at Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, where he got an insight in Western and Eastern papermaking techniques, mostly done research via books and articles. He has visited Dieu Donne Paper and Carriage House Paper in NY, Two American well known places in the paper world with a very fine set up.

Jenny has interned with Helen Hiebert in Portland, Oregon and met with many US based paper artists. She has visited Dieu Donne, NY, visited one IAPMA* exhibition and done 3-4 workshops in book binding in the US. Apart from that she has visited paper mills in Pune, India, a kagzi in Sanganer and Pondicherry. Jenny writes that she was impressed with many of the artists’ work in the West and she thinks Indian artists should be more exposed to possibilities of the material.
Kulu has never studied the handmade paper and Shantamani, Ravikumar and Sudipta has mainly searched in India and in the East. Sudipta has received a Greenshield award and is documenting various centres of papermaking such as Jungshi handmade paper factory in Thimpu, banana fibre paper, Indian manufacturers in Assam and Lokta manufacturers in Katmandu. Shanthamani has visited Khadi Gramodyoga in South India, but she is still depending on paper produced in Europe. Ravikumar has met other artists working with paper during a Hanji show in Chennai. He has visited papermaking units in Bangalore, Pondichery, Ahmedabad, Sikkim, Jaipur and Shantiniketan in India and in Mexico, South Korea, Glasgow and Nepal. He finds the Jang Ji Bang studio,Seoul, South Korea,  very professional and thorough in their method - ology.  

Neeta has done thorough historical research abroad as mentioned before including the Silk Road, Xian and Samarkhand, but also in India. In the 90’s she became interested in the study of paper used for old manuscripts and discovered that from 1980’s – 1990’s most of the papermaking units she had seen and photographed had been destroyed, but there was a lot of paper on the market. The last mill she visited was Daulatabad, where they were famous for making thin paper in the 17th century. When she visited the mill was about to close down and spontaneously she bought it. She revived it and opened The Bombay Paperie.
6: Do you use mainly local plants/fibres in your paper production or do you import fibres from abroad?
Anupam only uses indigenous plants that grow in West Bengal and in other parts of India. Shantamani uses recycled 100 % cotton rag pulp from Tirupur textile industry and states that banana fibre and jute fibre are easily available in the southern part of India. Sudipta has made paper from banana fibre and waste material. She has bought Hanji paper from South Korea – it depends on the need and the demand of the work she is making. Jenny and Ravikumar use only Indian fibres. Radha imports fibres and is looking for a good quality hemp in India. Kulu uses readymade paperboard for his cuttings. Neeta uses her own paper from Daulatabad and old paper.
I sense a lack of broader investigation into what is possible with different plants and their bio based capacities. India has such a huge potential – there is a lot to be done!

White Memories, cast cotton rag pulp, 9" x 9", 2019
Ravikumar Kashi

7: What do you know about the Kagzi tradition in India, and does it inform your paper making practice?
Most artists express that the kagzi tradition as such has not and doesn’t enlighten their paper practice.
Anupam, Neeta and Radha have studied the history of paper in India and researched it on their own. Radha has written articles about it and is currently working on a deeper research project, which is going towards a book. She also teaches workshops on the subject. Neeta wrote about kagzis in her book Off the Deckle Edge as mentioned before.
Sudipta states: for me the Kagzi tradition in India speaks not only about traditional papermaking practice but also about multi-culturalism and Indo-Islamic history. She feels that the kagzi tradition can show us pathways into making paper that is ecologically more beneficial.
I agree. Today one can find a lot of historical writings about India and paper history and there is inspiration to be found in these writings. Following FN’s 17 sustainable development goals in order to transform our world, paper and its history can open up knowledge and show one of the ways to go.
8: How is hand papermaking received in India today?
Here again the questioned artists seem to agree that there is a very slow growing interest. Paper is seen as eco-friendly, but there is a lack of awareness, lack of visibility, creative intervention and lack of marketing strategy. Indian handmade paper industry does not have a systematic and planned marketing for its promotion on a wider spectrum according to Anupam. You do not see handmade paper in the market and even in art colleges you do not see much of handmade paper and in the publication and design area, we see very few efforts in adopting handmade paper, Shantamani says. Jenny names it a niche –market, but a growing market in the bottom of the list of materials compared to other hand crafts, due to lack of knowledge and demand. Sudipta says that through the consciousness and the practice of many contemporary artists it is receiving more attention than before.
The conclusion as far as I see it is: that paper eventually will reclaim its position. Cellulose is beginning to win territory as research and experiments are taking place at universities all around the world. India should follow up on this at their universities.

Title: Trail-III

Medium: Handmade paper (linen yarn, banana & ramie fibre) & back lit box, 2019
59 x 31 x 3 in, Anupam Chakrabroty

9: Why do you think papermaking and the scribal arts in India have been less able to rise from their roots than the textile tradition?
Sudipta writes that earlier we have not understood and paid attention to the amazing traditional skills present around us, which has led to stagnation to the practices. Today through research artistic approach scientific experiments and more global awareness will make the former practices dynamic again.
Jenny finds that textile was far more evolved in India from very early on and that weaving was a developed craft all over the regions. Paper was from the beginning for limited purpose for art with royal patronage.
Shantami agrees with Jenny concerning textile and that there are very few good hand papermaking units producing good paper. India is a developing country which thrives to acquire what is in the first –world market other than looking inward in terms of developing a sustainable product within its available practices. A lot of indigenous knowledge systems are surprisingly still alive in India and there is a greater opportunity to develop them further.
Anupam states: following areas can be considered for negligible growth in hand papermaking and scribal art from their roots compared to textile tradition: a) lack of professional skills among implementing agencies, b) Poor quality measures, c) Inadequate research and development programmes, d) Absence of aggressive marketing strategies, e) Lack of involvement of artists and designers in the R&D ( Research & Development) and production team.
Ravikumar suspects that it is because of government polices and mentions Weavers Service Centre and Pupul Jaykar, who was instrumental in the revival of textiles. No such effort has been made for paper.
Radha mentions that at the time of independence, KVIC did the wrong thing by introducing auto-vats and training the average person to make paper and that this was the final blow to the kagzi tradition. She also mentions lack of government support and interest. In Neeta’s experience the Khadi commission did the biggest disservice to the paper craft by showing a total lack of interest in the quality and never made any great effort to sell the paper or pay the papermakers. She also mentions that the quality of cotton available in India has a poor quality. With most of the waste from GM cotton, the yarn is too loose and knots when made into pulp. This leaves holes in the paper when it is produced thin.
The conclusion is that nobody really supports the revival of the ancient craft of papermaking.
Today – in 2019 – I have the hope that artists will revive this craft and art, which has been the case since 1950 in the West and by their example push KVIC etc. to see the sustainable and bio based quality of paper as a new way to go.

The city has layers of expression,  91cm x 60 cm,  Paper Board, cutting
Kulu Ojha

10: Do you think the Khadi and Village Industries Commission change its approach as it sees the growing market for exported paper?
Shantamani writes, that the approach should aim at innovation within the field instead of still training basic industrial skills and nothing else. Ravikumar has given a proposal to the Khadi commission to do an intervention project, but without response. He states that paper made in the Khadi papermaking unit are unimaginative. Jenny finds that KVIC does not understand what needs to be done for handmade paper. Sudipta writes that KVIC should change their approach due to the growing market of exported paper: It should not only encourage the traditional process of papermaking but also inspire them to make a viable alternative to chemically treated paper through collaboration with artists and researchers. It could be India’s contribution to the solution of ecological distress by factory made, chemically treated paper. Anupam writes: Some major positive changes have been noticed in this regard since last few years. It has been observed that KVIC is presently grappling with problems on the supply side, and not on the demand side. It is one of the reasons that KVIC has been concentrating on its production facilities across the country through the help of all its supply chain agencies. KVIC, which falls under the jurisdiction of Ministry of MSME, is also thought of providing incentives and shops for start ups in the MSME segment. KVIC also assists export of khadi and village industry products through Export Incentive Scheme. Besides these, KVIC also supports khadi and village industry institutions as well as REGP units and state boards for participation in international trade fairs abroad. The fairs not only provide an opportunity to find new buyers but also expose the participating units to the quality, packaging and standard of similar products from different countries. The knowledge enables them to suitably reorient the production and process to access foreign markets as well as prepare them to compete with the foreign products coming to local markets in India.( Note: This info Anupam has obtained  from MSME & KVIC  websites and from uploaded research papers related to this area through Google search – the info is from 1990!)
These different answers tell me that KVIC is not doing enough in relation to FN’s 17 World Goals: In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and address the urgency of climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone. Here KVIC should direct paper production towards the innate possibility of handmade paper production: sustainability by setting up collaborative workshop with artists and designers all over India.

11:   Do you think they (KVIC) could spearhead the revival of more traditional paper production for use by conservators and artists?
The artists’ attitude to this question is not reflecting a lot of expectations, but a tiny hope : Anupam writes: They could if they can transfer their weakness into strength and Shantami: Awareness and market opportunities will make a huge difference. Sudipta finds that the revival already has started through the hands of artists who are using handmade paper more and more, making it themselves or searching for better qualities in India or abroad, and also through curators, galleries and researchers, who have a growing interest in the old techniques. It is a slow process, but I think eventually India will get there in 20 – 30 years acknowledging its wealth existing in production of quality products and involving qualified engaging people!

12:   How do you envision the development of handmade paper and paper art in India’s future?
Shantamani: There is a greater possibility to develop the handmade paper into a sustainable system in India. We have an example of providing 20 women a decent salary in a rural area to sustain their families. If this project is getting attached to microfinance support system, it can revolutionize women’s economic independence. In 2004, there were no handmade paper studios in Bangalore. But today we have three artists working with the basic amenities. Things will surely change in coming days. Sudipta believes that handmade paper will become an alternative to the environmentally harmful chemical treated paper. It needs to be recognized by the administrative machinery in India to make it happen.
Jenny  and Anupam state that paper has to be introduced in academic curriculum in government and private schools, art and design schools.   Ravikumar sees a growing interest in artists’ communities. He also states that the influence slowly has come from abroad – e.g. the students, who studied with Jacki Parri: Anupam, Ravikumar and Shantami. Radha states that she hopes people will be proud of their heritage.
Anupam mentions the Indian Bengali sculptor and printmaker Somnath Hore ( 1921 – 2006) as one of the first Indian artist who used handmade paper as an artistic means of expression. Hore is considered a major pioneer of modern art in India. He experimented with different printmaking techniques and materials, culminating with his abstract paper pulp series “Wounds”, produced in 1970.
An Indian artist I would have liked to include in this project is Priya Ravish Mehra (1961 – 2018) who studied weaving and design at Santiniketan. Priya had what I would call a holistic view on textile: the plant, which becomes thread and is woven into cloth – a cloth that again can be transformed into paper pulp and get a new life as paper pulp. In her later work she fused paper pulp with cloth and looked upon this as a healing process. This concept has been part of my practice for the past 40 years and I’m very sad that I never got to meet Priya. She knew one of my teachers, Japanese Yosiko Wada, based in San Francisco.  With Yosiko, Priya made a workshop: “Bearing Witness” in Delhi in March 2015, Habitat, hosted by the Lila Foundation.
Another artist who is worth mentioning in this context is Zarina (Hashmi) born in 1937 in India. Paper is her passion and central to her practice as a surface to print on and as a material with its own properties in history allied also with literary tradition. In the 1980s, she literalized this interest by casting three-dimensional works with paper pulp, creating forms that would become cast bronze sculptures.

Further the young artist Aniindita Bhattachary engages with tradition in a dialogue with the contemporary world, claiming India’s heritage in her beautiful hand cut jalis in wasli paper, painted with gouache and her own colours from natural dyes, coffee stains and  miniature paintings. (Wasli paper is created by gluing together several layers of handmade paper with archival glue, polishing and smoothing the surface by hand to prepare the paper for miniature painting.)

Anupam says: more artists, designers, papermakers and creative entrepreneurs must take initiative to set up professional papermaking studios at different parts of the country. Besides these, a body of dedicated paper artists must introduce interactive sessions through hands-on training, slide presentation, seminar and exhibition throughout the year to make this medium a viable one.
Being a dedicated papermaking unit, Nirupama Academy of Handmade Paper conducts papermaking workshops, provides papermaking kits to academic institutes and individuals and also involved in doing collaborative projects with artists and designers, government and non-government organisations throughout the year. Papers produced at Nirupama Academy have been used by many artists, designers and private organisations in India and abroad. K.G. Subramanyan, Linda Benglis, Amar Kanwar, Priya Ravish Mehra, Mithu Sen, Yardena Kurulkar, Natalie Vassil, Marinos Vlessas & Maria Malakou, Thinley Rhodes, Maku Textiles Pvt. Ltd., Philip Qian, Jeannie McArthur Koga, Hoang Tien Quyet, Anne Vilsboell and many more are in our client list. By experiencing increasing demand of our paper among artists, designers and in corporate houses, I am quite optimistic that quality handmade paper and paper art will play a formidable role in India’s future.

I personally met Anupam in 2009 in his studio in Kolkata and felt very happy that someone was doing something for handmade paper! I ordered paper from him and find that he ever since has come a long way pursuing his passion and in spreading knowledge. More artists will follow, but it means to choose paper as one’s medium and have good reasons to do so. It is a rewarding journey.

Forest Light: A forest of Fir in the middle of a city transported me to a space in which only I existed along with  the tall trees that surrounded me. The diffused light that filtered through the canopies and made apparent the details of each tree, had a special quality of quietude and tranquility that I had never before experienced. I had found my place in the world, and it was here, in the quiet and slowness of nature. Forest Light is a tunnel book that is created using handmade Kozo and hemp papers. The back panel is a sheet of waxed Kozo that diffuses the light entering the tranquil forest scene. This book began as a dimensional illustration that was used as a book cover for a classic Penguin publication of a book of poem’s by the 16th century poet, Tahir Ghani. Radha Panday

13:  Are you in contact with the other paper makers or paper artists in India or abroad?

Radha is in touch with papermakers and paper artists in the Western part of the world having studied at Iowa University with Timothy Barrett, taken workshops, participating in paper conferences and giving lectures and she is surely one, who has decided to transfer actions in paper knowledge to a broader audience.  Shanthami is familiar with a few artists in Southern India, Ravikumar is in touch with Asian artists, he has met at biennials and triennials, Jenny with very few and Sudipta knows Anupam and Ravikumar. Anupam is in touch with Western and few Indian artists. Neeta has Bombay Paperie and I can only encourage all artists who search good quality paper to visit her shop. She sells handmade paper with 4 deckle edges, unlike the 2 of machine made “handmade paper.” She would be delighted for the paper to go to people who knows the difference.
Unfortunately a lot of paper is on the market as “handmade paper” without being so. This fact presses the market for real handmade paper

I think it is time now for Indian artists who work with paper to meet and perhaps create an association and spread the news of such an association to all art schools and design schools, to KVIC etc. – to make yearly conferences, newsletters and exhibitions together. Study what Friends of Dard Hunter did in USA and what IAPMA did in Europe. A community of like minded people will grow and a group is always stronger than one person.
My hope is that this article will create awareness and make the 8 selected questioned Indian artists acquainted with each other. I’m sure there must be many more following, so that India can build up its own 21st century paper family.
Anne Vilsbøll 

* IAPMA: The International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists.

Anne Vilsbøll  Danish artist, author and curator has been involved with handmade paper as an artistic means of expression since the early 80'ties. From 1986 - 2000 she was editor and president for IAPMA, The International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists. She has curated exhibitions, written books, numerous articles, taught at art academies and design schools many places in the world, given lectures on the subject as well as showing her own art internationally and nationally for the past 36 years. (  - –
Anne Vilsbøll’s art is the result of intense innovative and inspirational research into the hidden potential of paper as a tool for modern means of expression. She has been acclaimed as one of the pioneers among a number of remarkable artists who during the past sixty years have searched to revive the lost form of the ancient craft of papermaking as a contemporary art form.( Bogomila Welsh – Ovcharow in Anne Vilsbøll-the language of Paper, Edition Heede &Moestrup, 2011).

Saturday, May 11, 2019



Ordet papir stammer fra det latinske  og græske ord papyrus. Dette skabte en vis forvirring, for da papiret ankom til Europa, troede man, at de Østasiatiske lande havde lært at fremtille papir af ægypterne. I Ægypten forarbejdede  man papyrusplantens stængler til skriveunderlag fra omkring år 3000 Fremstillingsmetoden har ikke noget med papirets opfindelse at gøre. For at blive kategoriseret som papir, skal dette fremstilles af forarbejdede, flydende fibre i vand. Fibrene løftes op på dertil udførte forme, og et nyfødet ark kommer til verden.
Der blev rettet op på denne misforståelse, da forskning viste, at papirets ankomst til Europa  skete via handelsruter, der forbandt Kina til Vestasien og Middelhavslandene. En af disse handelsruter blev i 1877 - af den  tyske geograf Ferdinand von Richthofen - kaldt Silkevejen.  Men silke var langt fra den  eneste vare, der blev transporteret. Papirets opfindelse blev bragt til Europa via de samme ruter, og det ville være mere korrekt, at dette netværk blev kendt som Papirvejen, eftersom papir har haft en ganske betydelig indflydelse på menneskets historie. Silkevejen er derfor i det flg. døbt Papirvejen.
Papir var ukendt i Vestasien og Middelhavslandene før Islam, hvor det traditionelle skriveundelag var papyrus og pergament.. Papyrusplantens stængler blev skåret på langs og dernæst skåret til strimler, der  efter at have
været lagt i blød i vand, blev anbragt horisontalt og vertikalt og presset sammen.  Analyser af, hvad der fik stænglerne til at hænge sammen, varierer, men  i korthed indikerer analyserne, at 50- 60 % er cellulose, som findes i plantestængler og 36-40 % er lignin, som degraderer med tiden (og som skal fjernes ved papirfremstilling).

Papirets terminologi.

Grækerne kaldte  papyrus for khartes, som kan forbindes med papirrelaterede termer i moderne sprog – såsom italiensk carta for papir eller vores eget ord for kort af papir. Romerne kaldte planten ved dens latinske navn papyrus, som er blevet transformeret til papir på dansk, paper på engelsk, papel på spansk og papier på fransk og tysk. Den græske term for en papyrusrulle er biblios, som afstedkom ord som bibel og bibliografi, og den latinske term for papyrusrulle var volumen og volute af dennes form. Den latinske term for en kolonne af tekst på en papyrusrulle er blevet til page på engelsk og liber, som oprindeligt var det latinske ord for bark,blev til det latinske ord for bog. Da bogen antog den form, vi kender, blev den kaldt codex, som er den latinske term for en træblok.
Vi kan således udlede, at papirets terminologi kan forklare, hvorfor den ovenfor nævnte forvirring om papirets oprindelse opstod.

Papirets opfindelse.

Papiret blev opfundet i Kina for ca. 2000 år siden, som den første af fire vigtige kinesiske opfindelser, nemlig kompasset, krudt og trykteknik – opfindelser, der alle via Papirvejen bredte sig til den vestlige del af verden ved arabernes mellemkomst.
Legender og optegnelser har mange forskellige versioner om, hvad der egentligt skete, men den mest kendte og vedtagne er, at den person, der fik æren for opfindelsen, er eunukken, opfinderen og politikeren Cai Lun (Ts´ai Lun),ansat ved kejserens hof under Han – dynastiet. Han forelagde sin opfindelse for kejser He ( 88 – 106  i år 105  Cai Lun er kendt af de fleste i Kina, som papiret fader. Cai Lun Paper Culture Museum ligger i Longting by i Shannxi provinsen ved siden af Cai Lun’s grav tempel. Her kan man studere papirets historie, dets udvikling og anvendelse og endog prøve at fremstille papir, som man gjorde det under Han dynastiet (ca. 200 – 200
En historie fortæller, at Cai Lun havde siddet og filoseret på en flodbred, mens han iagttog kvinder vaske tøj. Åndsfraværende samlede Cai Lun fragmenter op af små løsrevne tøjfragmenter, slået løs, når kvinderne bankede tøjet. Når Cai Lun pressede stumper af fibrene sammen, opdagede han, at de hang sammen. En anden historie fortæller, at Cai Lun studerede hvepseboer, opbygget af træ,  tygget sammen med hvepsespyt, hvilket giver et papiragtigt udseende. En tredje historie er, at han en dag sammen med andre skulle transportere tunge dokumenter, skåret i bambusstrimler, på oksedrevne vogne til kejserens palads. På vejen snublede okserne, og vognen væltede, så alle bambusstrimlerne faldt af vognen. Mens de ventede på en anden oksedreven vogn,der skulle komme dem til undsætning, havde Cai Lun god tid til at tænke. Han konkluderede, at bambustrimlerne simpelthen var for tunge og en byrde for de lærde. Der måtte findes et lettere materiale. Da han gik, passerede han bunker af hampefibre og tænkte: måske kan disse være nyttige. Han samlede lidt sammen, men hampen var rå og løs. Så tænkte han på rester fra silkeproduktion, og så blev lyset tændt! Sammen med tjenere samlede han bark, hamp, gamle silkekokoner, fiskenet og bomuldsklæde. De skar ingredienserne i små stumper  og stykker og kogte dem. Dernæst blev det udkogte materiale hamret med trækøller i en morter og opløst i vand, Da denne mikstur blev løftet op af vandet hang den sammen som en flade, der efter tørring blev til ark papir.  Cai Lun havde fundet frem til papirfremstillings - processens hemmeligheder – han fik æren, men måske var det en fra en lavere klasse, der viste ham vejen – det er ikke til at vide.
Der er andre beviser på, at fibre blev anvendt til papirfremstilling endnu tidligere.
I Xian er der blevet fundet papir, der kan dateres tilbage til omkring år 200 Papiret var påskrevet med  nedfældede bønner og blev fundet bag en mursten i et adobe hus. Papir er ligeledes blevet fundet langs Papirvejen. Disse meget gamle papirer er fundet i ørkenklimaer, hvor papiret har kunnet overleve. De tidligst fremstillede papirer blev anvendt til at sprede Konfucianske og Daoistiske tanker. Buddhistiske ideer og ceremonier blev nedskrevet på papir og formidlet  til andre lande. Fra Kina rejste opfindelsen af papir over Korea til Japan og dernæst mod vest  langs Papirvejen  til de islamiske lande. Historien fortæller, at kampen ved Talas i år 751 er en nøglebegivenhed i papirets historie, nemlig videregivelse af papirfremstillingsprocessen. Slaget stod mellem det arabiske Abbasid Kalifat sammen med deres allierede, det tibetanske imperium, mod det kinesiske Tang Dynasti. Begge parter ønskede magt over Syr Darya området i Centralasien. Det blev slutningen på Tangs udvidelser mod vest og resulterede i muslimernes kontrol over Transoxiana i de næste 400 år. Dette område var på Papirvejen. Efter kampene mener man, at erfarne kinesiske krigsfanger blev beordret  til at fremstille papir i Samarkand  og omkring år 794 i Baghdad  i nutidens Irak. Opfindelsen revolutionerede den islamiske verden, og det blev således araberne, der bragte papiret til Europa.
Først til Spanien og Italien omkring det 12.årh. Herfra bevægede opfindelsen sig nordpå. Den første papirmølle i Danmark blev anlagt i 1573 ved Hvidøre  og i USA i 1690  lidt udenfor  Philadelphia – over 1000 år efter papirets opfindelse.

Landes vegetation var  bestemmende for, hvilken kvalitet papir, der kunne fremstilles. I Østen vokser bambus og risstrå og de stærke bastfibre, såsom kozo, mitsumata og gampi, der alle har en høj fleksibilitet og kan anvendes både 2-og 3-dimensionelt. Disse fibre var ikke let tilgængelige i Vesten, hvorfor man her fremstillede papir af bomulds- og hørklude, beregnet til 2-dimensionelle formål.
Det var først i det 18.årh. at der blev udviklet industrielle metoder, der gjorde træfibre til en attraktiv fiberkilde.

I papirets fædreland.

Kina 1990, uddrag af min dagbog:
Det er november månede. Jeg sejler på en flod i Kina.Risstrå er stablet som  wigwamlignende skulpturer inde på land. Bambusbåden, ladet med papirballer, glider gennem det stille brunlig  - grønne landskab og i den lette tåge forvandles den til en silhouet i delikat broderi mod den bleggrå himmel. Vi lægger til ved bredden,  og børnene løber os imøde. Store bunker af risstrå veksler med lave organisk udlagte bygninger. Så langt øjet rækker er jorden belagt med gule rektangler. Alle horisontale og vertikale planer er dækket af papir. Grise, kyllinger, hunde og geder løber rundt på papiret. Landsbykvinderne er i færd med at sprede endnu flere ark ud til tørring. Husene er bygget  af ler, risstrå, træ og metal. Gulvene er stampet ler. Maden tilberedes i wok. Bedstemoderen sidder på en lav skammel ved  ildstedet og sørger for, at varmen holdes ved lige.  I alle de små huse fremstilles papir. Hovedsageligt til hjemmebrug: toiletpapir af risstå, papir til skolebrug, papirmasse til isolering. Få fremstiller papir af bambus, som anvendes til kalligrafi. Bag landsbyen er der kæmpe store cementbeholdere nedgravet i jorden. Det er her riststå og bambus stilles ned til forrådnelse. At fremstille bambus papir ( Tsu Chin) er en langsommelig proces. Bambus høstes i denne landsby i juni. På dette tidpunkt vokser stængelen ikke, kun blade og grene. Der er over 300 arter af bambus. Gammel bambus er gul, ung bambus er grøn som jade. Bambus, der er over 6 år kan ikke anvendes til papirfremstilling. Høj fugtighed giver den bedste kvalitet. 2 måneders vækst af bambus anvendes; blade og skud skrælles væk, stængler i 2 meters længde bundtes og placeres i de store cementgrave, hvor de dækkes med vand og stilles til nedbrydning. Vand tilsættes med mellemrum via bambus rør for at sikre, at al bambus er dækket. Denne proces tager 100 dage. Dernæst fjernes de grønne skaller, og de tilbageblivende fibre stables i lag med vand og læsket kalk. Denne mikstur står endnu i 120 dage. Bambusfibrene skylles med rent vand i 2 måneder for at fjerne kalkrester, og dernæst skal bambusfibrene hamres i en fodstamper til papirmasse. Metoden skifter en smule fra landsby til landsby, men det drejer sig om at nedbryde fibrene, så plantens iboende cellulose frigives. Kinesiske støbekar er temmeligt store. De er fyldt med vand op til 8 cm fra karrets kant. Papirmassen hældes i karret med vand sammen med ekstrakt fra ferskenbambus. Ekstrakten sørger for, at fibrene spreder sig blødere og mere jævnt. Støbeformen er af bambus med vertikale paralle stænger, på hvilke bambusmåtten hviler. Måtten  er af tynde bambustrimler, syet sammen med silke eller sener fra vandbøfler. Formen dyppes kun en gang, og ark lægges ovenpå hinanden på en træplanke. Den sædvanlige størrelse er ca 200 x 100 cm. Arbejdsdagen er på 10 -12 timer og produktionen er på ca. 3000 ark om dagen! Bunken af de nyfødte ark, i papirterminologi kaldet posten, presses i en primitiv presse med stenvægte.Den endelige tørring foregår ved at pensle arkene op på metalplader, placeret på hver sin side af en ca. 20 cm bred tunnel, opvarmet af varmekilden,der strømmer igennem fra ildstedet for enden af tunnelen.
Bambus vokser op ad bjergene i det fjerne. I byerne anvendes bambus til bygningsstilladser, på floderne flyder bambus som tømmerflåder eller både.Bambus er tæt forbundet med Orientens mennesker og deres daglige liv. Den anvendes til føde, til byggeri,konstruktion af broer,møbler, køkkenreskaber, spisepinde, redskaber, rørføring, kurve, reb, paraplyer, vifter, pensler, kamme, lamper, hatte, musikinstrumenter, medicin, sko, m.m. I Kina anses bambus som en af de fire noble planter. De 3 andre er orkidé, blomme og krysantemum. I århundreder har bambus været brugt som symbol på moral, grundet plantens vertikalt rejsende stængel. Den repræsenterer også Buddha, glæde og held. I maleri, poesi, myter og legender hyldes planten som ekstraordinær. Den blomstrer kun en gang på hundrede år, og derefter dør den. Bambus vokser hurtigere end nogen anden plante på jorden; man kan næsten se den gro!
I Kina er en landsby klassificeret som landsby på grund af sin fjerne beliggenhed, ikke på grund af sin størrelse, da landsbyer spreder sig over meget store områder for så at vokse sammen med endnu andre landsbyer, hvor der forefindes andre  erhverv. De landsbyer, jeg besøgte, havde ikke nogen direkte forbindelse til større byer. I landsbyer, der producerer det fine, hvide bambuspapir, tjener de flere penge end i landsbyer, hvor de producerer  gulligt risstråpapir. I en rig landsby er det normalt, at en papirmager tjener 3.000 yan ( 3000 DKK) om året. En regeringsansat ingeniør tjener 1.800 yan om året ( i 1990). I de rige landsbyer er huse bygget af cement med gulve af cement. Statussymboler som køleskab og TV står i hjørnet af opholdsstuen.
I Vesten kaldes alt tyndt, hvidt papir fra Østen fejlagtigt for rispapir. Det er baseret på en misforståelse, måske kommet ind i sproget, da de arabiske handelsfolk præsenterede papir for første gang i Europa i det 12.årh. De har måske fortalt, at dette papir var fremstillet af folk, der dyrkede og levede af ris! Der er intet papir, der er fremstillet af ris på traditional vis. Kina er det eneste land, der fremstiller papir af risstrå. Dette papir anvendes som husholdningspapir, til såkaldt ”spirit – paper”, anvendt som papirpenge i religiøse riter som ofringer til brug for livet efter døden. I vesten kan vi se det gule risstråpapir anvendt på raketter og andet fyrværkeri.
Nedbrydning af risstråpapir foregår ved en mere simpel proces end den proces, der blev beskrevet ovenfor for bambus. Risstrå stables skiftevis med læsket kalk i store cementkar. Den varme, der udvikles ved denne tætte stabling, hjælper med at fjerne lignin, som binder fibrene sammen. Denne nedbrydning foregår om sommeren i 14 dage eller om vinteren i 2 måneder. Når stråene er nedbrudt, skylles massen i andre store cementkar, og derefter fodstampes de. Tidligere anvendte man vandbøfler til at foretage denne stampning og findeling af fibrene.
Selvom håndlavet papir i 2009 blev tilføjet listen af National Intagible Cultural Heritage, har brugen af traditionelt  fremstillet papir været faldende i Kina. Der eksisterer dog en forståelse for vigtigheden af at formidle den traditionelle kinesiske kultur. Her skal nævnes Gaoligong Museum of Handcraft Paper, placeret på en mark i nærheden af landsbyen Xinzhuang i Yunnan provinsen. Et arkitektonisk forsøg på at kombinere moderne kvalitet i en landlig kontekst. Her kan man blive oplyst om papirets historie og lære at fremstille håndlavet papir, som traditionen foreskriver.
Enkelte unge 14. generations papirmagere kæmper for at holde arven ved lige. F.eks.  Jiaijang handmade paper industry i Sichuan provinsen, hvor den håndlavede papirindustri forsøges holdt ved lige. Tang Shukun, direktør for Handmade Paper Institute ved University of Science and Technology i Hefei, Anhui provinsen, samarbejder med papirmagere for at genskabe forsvundne fremstillingsformer. Så snart en teknik uddør er den vanskelig at genskabe. Tang Shukun har sammen med sit team igennem de sidste 10 år indsamlet, dokumenteret, skrevet artikler, udarbejdet videoer og udført laboratorie- undersøgelsesdata, som vil udkomme i en bog, der fokuserer paa  det håndlavede papirs traditionelle  produktionsproces. Selvom unge mennesker foretrækker andre erhverv og papir fremstilles industrielt, skal det dog slås fast, at håndlavet papir er af en langt bedre kvalitet end industrielt fremstillet papir.Man må håbe, at de mennesker, der bruger deres energi på at holde den gamle tradition ved lige, vil få mere fokus fremover.

Papirklip- Jianzhi.

Papir indeholder mange af Kinas kulturelle erindringer og var engang og er mange steder stadigt uadskilleligt fra menneskers dagligliv, hvilket bla. afspejles i traditionen Jianzhi,som er kinesisk klip i papir. Jianzhi menes at  være udviklet siden år 600: fra anvendelse i religiøse sammenhænge, når man bad til sine guder og forfædre, til mønstre for broderier og senere som en udbredt folkekunst, hvor det anvendes som dekoration og symbol på lykke og et godt helbred, I dag fremtilles papirklip både kommercielt, som kunsthåndværk, design og kunst. Jianzhi er en af de ældste, mest populære typer folkekunst i Kina. Der findes en nordlig og en sydlig traditionel stil. Den sydlige stil fra Jiangsu og Zheijang provinserne er udført smukt og omhyggeligt med mange fine og interessante detaljer. Den nordlige stil fra Yuxian og Fengning i Hebei provinsen og Shaanxi har overdrevne, voldsomme former og livlige forskelligartede mønstre. Papirklip kan ses som dekorative vindues papirklip med blomstermønstre i hjørnerne. Ofte er disse klip inspireret af traditionel  kinesisk opera. Da papirklip tit købes af landbefolkningen er  indholdet af vindues papirklip som regel relaterest til landbrug, det at fiske og holde dyr eller spinde på spinderok. Klippene er en æstetisk måde at udtrykke håb, taknemmelighed eller andre følelser på. De ofte røde papirklip har forskellig mening. Nogle udtrykker ønske om en god høst, ønsket om at ens dyr trives, ønske om held og et bedre liv; dyr og planter, legendariske, mytiske kreaturer, en jadekanin eller en karpe, der springer over en drages hale eller figurer fra myter og historier om den gule kejser. Andre udtrykker taknemmelighed over livet – det smukke ved en fisk, der svømmer mellem lotus blomster eller en pige, der fletter sit hår. De mest populære klip handler om held og dobbelt lykke. Mennesker i Kina holder af at hænge papirklip op på deres døre, der indeholder disse to karakterer: ” / = lykke, bruges ofte ved nytårstide  for ønsket om et godt år og  ” /xǐ= dobbelt glæde, som ofte ses ophængt på nygiftes vinduer og døre ved bryllupper. Vindues papirklip har nær forbindelse til forårets komme. Det er en måde at byde foråret velkomment på og at vise glæde og gode intentioner.
Portrættering af de stiliserede silhouet billeder er for de flestes vedkommende klippet med saks, andre skåret med en skap kniv på en blødt underlag, f.eks voks. Det anbefales at  holde saksen i en position og skubbe papiret mod skæringspunktet. En saks med stort håndtag og korte skæreblade er at foretrække. Det er vigtigt, at papiret har en vis stivhed og  fleksibilitet, så man ikke ødelægger sit klip. Egenskaben bestemmes af papirets nano-arkitektur,som betyder, at papiret har en kombination af relativt stive krystallinske  celluloseområder, forbundet af mere fleksible amorfe områder. Fibrene er alle forbundne i 3-dimensionelle strukturer med hydrogen sammensathed som den dominerende forbindelseskomponent,  Fordi en tynd udklippet papirlinie kan blive tyndere end fiberlængden er det vigtigt, at papirfibrene er blevet skåret med en høj grad af finhed.
Som nævnt er farven rød den mest populære til papirklip, men farven sort er også højt værdsat i Kina. I den vestlige verden er sort ofte forbundet med alvor, tab, tristhed og uorden. Under Xia dynastiet ( 2070 – 1600 var sort en nobel farve. I Ching omkring år 9. årh. var sort et nøglekoncept i den kinesiske mytologi. Den sorte farve relaterede til den øverste guddom, den himmelske kejser.Ordsproget himlen er sort og jorden er gul stammer fra det mytiske, stille mørke, som det gamle Kina oplevede på den nordlige himmel. Man troede på, at Nordstjernen pegede mod den himmelske kejser, og at sort derfor var kongen over alle farver. I dag, 4 tusinde år senere i Shanzhou området, Henan provinsen, lige der, hvor Xia dynastiet blomstrede engang, har folk stadig en ærbødighed overfor farven sort, som en guddommelig farve, der kan holde al ondskab borte. Denne tro har været holdt i hævd i generationer, ligesom det lokale, sorte papirklip i en kombination af tro og dagligliv. Folk i landsbyen Nangou i Shanzhou området klipper stadigt sorte papirklip for at vise guderne respekt, sikre rig høst, bede for nyfødte, holde sygdomme, kaos og uheld borte samt i andre rituelle sammenhænge.  Under forårsfestivalen sættes sorte papirklip op i vinduerne og på døre i hele Nangou og anvendes også, når et par er blevet gift. Disse dekorationer i folks hjem er ikke livløse stykker papir, men en udførelsesform af indbyggernes rene følelser i forhold til naturen og repræsenterer deres mest oprindelige æstetiske ideer, deres spiritualitet og et varsel om et bedre liv.
Nangou indbyggernes sorte papirklip blev vist på Lucca biennalen i Italien 2018, hvor China Academy of Art’s udstillingsteam Chen Huasha, Zhang Ting, Ma Chuan og Kong Quinpei, som en fortsættelse af Kina’s rige papirhistorie og dens forbindelse til moderne kunst, præsenterede installationen The Warmth of Paper  - en lang  ca. 1 m bred sti med Nangou indbyggernes sorte papirklip. Installationen repræsentede, hvorledes menneskeheden har integreret den kreative ånd med følelsesmæssig varme i en kold materiel kultur. En anden af gruppens installationer var fremstillet med sort aske, der symboliserede, hvorledes menneskets eksistens er bundet i en endeløs, næsten kaotisk cyclus og fortsætter med at vende tilbage til natur og stilhed.

Sitting alone in the dark bamboo
I play my lute and sing out
Deep in the wood known to no one
The bright moon is shining on me. 
Hang Wie 701 - 761   

Anne Vilsbøll

- skrevet i forbindelse med udstillingen Paper Dialogues, der afholdes på Center for Papirkunst, Hune, Nordjylland fra 22. marts - september 2019