India's diverse art and craft form is awe inspiring, to the say the least. Every region, every state expresses itself beautifully through its own style of art and craft. From Dhokra art/craft style of Chattisgarh, to Tanjore paintings of Tamil Nadu and Meenakari work of Rajasthan, each state has its own special brand of art.India has also witnessed a surge in demand for its art and craft work in foreign markets. Indian textile has been showcased on the ramps in Paris; Indian jewelry is much coveted abroad; Indian shawls and carpets are a prized possession and status symbols abroad. But what becomes of the humble weaver/craftman/artist who puts together such beautiful works of art?
Dhokra Craft Style
Dhokra Craft Style
When I was in college, my mother got a house help who happened to be from the Madhuban/Mithila region of Bihar. I was amazed to see how talented this lady was ! Besides performing her daily chores, she always found time to make beautiful patterns and designs on our courtyard walls, rough copies or even sewed patterns on fabrics. Art clearly was her first love, however unable to sustain herself through it she, and many other artists like her, had had to make the choice of moving to a city to provide cheap labour and make quick bucks.
This is just one small example. There are many such talented artists who have had to compromise with life and choose small odd jobs to pay for their living. If Indian art and craft is indeed as big as the GDP suggests, then why are our weavers/artists/craftsmen comitting suicide? Why are they not getting their due? Why are our artisans escpaing to the towns and cities to work as labourers? Where are we going wrong?
Fact is that the weavers, potters, carvers, painters, embroiders, goldsmiths and others who create such beauty with consummate skill and knowledge enjoy few fruits of their labour.Most regional art and craft skills are nutured in the villages. These are simple folks who are illeterate or poorly educated and not worldly wise.These artisans are deprived of recognition or copyrights of their own work. Their designs are copied and shared the world over without any credit being given to the original artist. There are instances where designs of Indian artisans are copied to be mass produced in China!
Unnatti is a project that is designed to work with local artisans at the basic level. The core idea of the project is to organize local artisans into co-oepratives, thereby empowering them to grow as a community. Our challenge would be to protect the art, but more importantly to protect the interests of the artists/craftsmen. By organizing the community of local artists/craftsmen into co-operative we can even enable them to obtain working capital from lending institutions. Unnatti would mentor artists/craftsmen. We would provide information on the new market demands and on adapting to such changes.
India's diversity reflects not just in its culture but also in the various art & craft forms prevalent in the country. "Unnatti" would be launched in Bihar first. The idea is to promote Madhubani Art form. The Madhubani art is primarily done by the womenfolk in the Mithila dist of Bihar. This art is passed on from mother to daughter one generation after another .In recent years these artists have fallen on hard times owing to middlemen. Some artists are paid as less as Rs 20 for a full size canvas painting.