The past few weeks amid the lockdown, I was presented with a unique opportunity to explore the world of traditional artforms from Rajasthan, Bihar and Odisha. I didn’t have to step out of my house, but thanks to technology, the world of traditional artforms came to my computer screen.
I lost track of time as I interacted with these renowned yet down to earth talented artists, learning about their lives in the village, their challenges and their success stories. While we created our own versions of masterpieces be it Madhubani, Phad or Pattachitra, the artists shared their joys and aspirations with us through the virtual world.
Curated by Truly Tribal, these workshops are known as the IndianArthathon, a part of the Artisans Support Initiative, who have been badly hit during the pandemic.
I had attended a block printing workshop in 2017 in Mulund, Mumbai, conducted by Ms Shyamala Rao. Ms Rao conducts brilliant block printing workshops at her home studio. That was when she taught me about traditional Indian block printing techniques and how they’re considered to be living traditions that need to be preserved and encouraged. You can see my photo essay here Block Printing: The Living Tradition to experience the beauty of the art of block printing.
I have a particular weakness for ethnic handmade Indian handicraft. They not only add a different dimension to my personal space but make me feel proud of being a part of a country that has so much talent. It makes me feel that I, in my own humble way, am contributing to our Indian traditional art and craft and keeping these legendary arts alive.
I usually come across people scoffing off such collectables by comparing them to international ones. They also state how similar items can be easily be bought cheaper online or at fancy lifestyle stores. The idea here is, unless we don’t learn about the art forms on our own, we will never know the perseverance, time, effort and the monetary investment that goes into creating a single masterpiece by these artists.
For instance, I never bargain with a farmer. I once tried growing a lemon plant and it took me several months to nurture it and bear fruit. It is only when you grow your own plants and vegetables do you realise the immense pain a small local farmer must be undertaking in his little plot of land to supply us with fruits and vegetables and yet, we bargain for a few odd rupees.
I have a similar belief for Indian handicraft, arts and crafts. The master craftsmen or the artists learn the art form usually from their childhood to perfect it. They spend hours usually in uncomfortable conditions (many times with irregular electricity supply), to produce a masterpiece only to be sold off at a cheaper rate to middlemen who then sell it for a premium to unsuspecting tourists and customers.
This is primarily why I support Indian handicraft brands such as Truly Tribal who directly source the craft from our Indian artisans so that they get their due and are not underpaid and go unrecognised.
Sometimes we tend to bask in the fake glory of being urban citizens, maybe it is a good idea to learn a craft from these craftsmen just to reground ourselves and revisit humility. When I rediscovered these art forms from these artists, I realised there are people far more talented, accomplished and skilled than me, and that helps me to remain grounded and humble.
Another significant reason for me to support Indian art and handicraft is that they’re mostly dependent on nature. Being closely connected to nature; these artists create masterpieces using natural dyes and paints. As a result, their artforms are usually responsibly sourced, sustainable and not harmful to Mother Nature.
As a parent, I strongly believe that farming and Indian handicraft should be a part of our school and college curriculum. If included along with academics, our children can grow up being connected to our roots and will be grounded to nature. The way things are going, we’re desperately going to need ecopreneurs, farmers and traditional artists to keep the local heritage going through ‘Made in India’ and ‘Go Local’ initiatives.
The Lifestyle Portal is supportive of small Indian farmers, Indian artisans and craftsmen, and handmade, sustainable, eco-friendly and ‘Made in India’ initiatives.
We make efforts to try these workshops for ourselves before sharing with our readers and urging them to be a more conscious and sustainable living and supporting our Indian craftsmen, weavers and artists in return.
To book an online art workshop, contact Truly Tribal.
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