The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Show of support for the traditional folk artisan
- FIVE-DAY crafts mela

The famous black pottery from Shyamota, in Rajasthan, mirror-work and embroidered leather from Kutch, bell-metal and iron castings from Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, lacquerware and leather puppets from Andhra Pradesh… The Dastkari Bazaar, which unfolds at Swabhumi on Thursday, offers a unique tapestry of India’s diverse social, cultural and religious customs through the crafts of the land.

Organised jointly by Swabhumi, the heritage plaza, and Dastkar, a society for crafts and craftspeople, the second edition of the Dastkari Bazaar, on till December 16, brings together 35 traditional crafts groups from all over the country. A troupe of 24 performers from Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will present folk music, dance, puppetry and magic shows to add to the fun.

“We are glad to be back in Calcutta and Swabhumi. We hope the extremely culture-conscious people of this city will come forward to support the cause of these wonderful craftspeople and promote what is one of our core strengths,” says Laila Tyabji, chairperson of Dastkar. The bazaar will become an annual affair, according to the organisers.

Tyabji, who along with five other women, formed Dastkar in 1981 to “deal with the problems of traditional artisans in contemporary India”, is confident of achieving sales of Rs 15-16 lakh during the five-day exposition, the entire proceeds of which will go to the craftspeople. “Craft is the second largest source of income for rural India after agriculture, providing direct employment to more than 17 million artisans,” says Tyabji.

Dastkar works with 200 crafts organisations and cooperatives, comprising more than 20,000 artisans. “Our goals are to make the crafts groups self-reliant, in control of their own lives and independent of organisations like us. Towards this, we are ready to assist them in any area through participatory intervention.”

Thus, Dastkar helps in identification of crafts groups, appropriate markets and products, building craft communities, organisational training, credit and raw materials, production systems, skill upgradation, pricing and costing, documentation, information-sharing and networking. “But once they stand on their own feet, we expect them to contribute back to the organisation,” says the chairperson.

Dastkar, which is keen to provide national exposure to craftspeople from Bengal, feels the government and the corporate sector should both appreciate the potential of this community and support its efforts.

“Sadly, traditional Bengal crafts are not often showcased well at a national level. This is where we can work in tandem with the state authorities and the private sector to transform crafts from being mere knick-knacks to objects of contemporary appeal,” Tyabji observes.

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