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Indian Matchbox Art

Quintessential Stone Age Tool By Nitisha Chawla

Indian Matchbox Art, doesn’t really sound artistic right? Well, read till the end of this article to have a creative realization!

History of the matchbox

It has been suggested that the invention of matchstick was made in 577AD by women of the Northern Qi. Upon dipping small pieces of pine into sulfur, dried sticks made sparks when rubbed together. Matchboxes in India have been used extensively, due to their ease of use and compact size. But these little boxes became a creative entity when their industrial production started, and the industries became keen to make the consumers aware of their brand. So began the course of colorful matchbox tops, the influence of which can be seen even today.

During the First World War, India exported most of its matches from Sweden to keep up with the needs of the natives. Even Japanese immigrants settled in Calcutta around 1910 and began making matches. Indian matchboxes often depicted Lotuses, Elephants, Birds, and even Hindu deities. The graphic on the matchbox was often a simple object along with catchy typography referring to the same. These objects used in day to day life made it easier for consumers to remember the brand and allowed them to mentally connect to it.

Evolution of Matchbox art in India

Recently, Aakansha Kukreja and Aakash Doshi, an artist duo have recreated this traditional matchbox art into graphic posters. Entitled “Maachis Project” their work aims “to remember Indian matchbox art for its bizarre content, and to reinterpret it using newer graphic designs.” This initiative depicts the importance of graphics and its impact in bringing back vintage trends with a quirky and funky twist

For 5 Years, Shreya Katuri Has Been Analysing Indian History Through Matchbox Art

The Matchbox art has now become an unacknowledged part of our daily lives. It has transitioned not only in terms of colour pallet, but also graphic representation and the subject of the graphic. Appearance of religious figures has diminished over time, and even the typography has changed to become more relatable for users. Matchbox artists like Ben Vautier, Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa have revolutionised art on matchboxes.

“Matchbox Mistress” Shreya Katuri started a project “Art on a Box“, in which she has analyzed over 2,500 matchboxes in the domain of religion, gender, and nation. She believes that matchboxes are capable of sending out social messages. The evolution of matchboxes from images of Hindu deities to those of Microsoft and Audi brand logos shows the technological and socio-cultural influence.

These Matchboxes speak a million tongues, and showcase India's diverse culture. 


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