The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Art and crafty way of sustaining tradition

Marginalised by technological advances the crafts exist only in museums in many countries. However beautiful the products created by craftspeople may be in such countries they could be priced beyond the reach of most. However, India is an exception. Far from being dead the crafts have flourished here. They have become a part of our everyday existence and even common objects or textiles we use all the time could have been produced by a craftsperson.

They have survived because they have adapted themselves to the changing demands of the market. Indian craftspeople do not enjoy the patronage of either the ruling classes or the temples any longer. However, now the nature of patronage has changed significantly. Thinking people, the moneyed and also the business classes are emerging as the new buyers of crafts.

For the past 30 years, the Crafts Council of West Bengal (CCWB), founded by Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay, has tried to revive and support declining indigenous knowledge, resources and skills, to act as a facilitator in assisting the crafts community, to upgrade technology and organise craft workshops in various schools and also for the offspring of craftspeople to ensure continuity of tradition. CCWB has participated in various Festivals of India in London, Philadelphia and Tokyo.

Now CCWB has a place of its own. Instead of holding exhibitions and workshops in galleries and other rented space, it is opening Artisana, Centre for Crafts, at 13 Chowringhee Terrace. Ruby Palchoudhury, honorary general secretary of CCWB, says even after interacting with craftspeople for 28 years, the organisation felt it could not exploit its capability to the fullest extent possible. Hence the new centre covering 1,700 sq ft, where artisans can stay for short periods, and exhibitions, workshops and other programmes can be held periodically.

It will provide marketing facilities to artisans and perhaps help with design development. The CCWB networks with smaller NGOs as a rule and now it can bring them under one umbrella. They will be allowed to hold exhibitions of their own at the centre for a moderate fee.

Palchoudhury says half the funds to set up the centre were raised and half were borrowed. It was a risky proposition but they went for it. The centre opens with an exhibition put up by Vimor, a Bangalore-based organisation that has documented traditional designs, names of motifs and specific measuring terminology in weavers language. It has pioneered the revival of traditional designs and weaving.

The CCWBs ultimate aim is to turn it into a research and resource centre. It will be stocked with books. Film and video shows will be held there for the benefit of craftspeople.

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