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Tribal art forms mean business

Techie-turned-entrepreneur takes pyatkar, sohrai & the like to offline & online buyers

FRAMING A REVIVAL: Entrepreneur and founder of Maati Ghar Virendra Kumar (left) interacts with pyatkar artist Bijoy Chitrakar in Amadubi last year. Telegraph picture

Jamshedpur: A young entrepreneur wants ancient tribal art to connect with GeNext.

Jamshedpur's Virendra Kumar, 24, has started Maati Ghar (clay house), a Parsudih-based organisation that links tribal artists and artisans with rural buyers to market their handicraft items for a fair price and also sells them directly on its own.

Maati Ghar also has an online portal to sell tribal art and is looking at Facebook, Amazon and Etsy to tap more virtual customers.

Items include wall hangings, handkerchiefs, handmade scrolls, cushion covers, stoles and wooden products, within a range of Rs 200 and Rs 4,000.

"The USP of Maati Ghar is affordable art. I know for a fact that today young professionals or businessmen like to do up their interiors with a statement piece or carry accessories such as stoles that are unique in design. If they're affordably priced, there is a demand for personal use and as personal and corporate gifts," Kumar said. "At Maati Ghar, you can get an authentic tribal painting for Rs 500."

In the five months of its existence, Maati Ghar has collaborated with Bijoy Chitrakar, one of the few pyatkar artists at Amadubi in Dalbhumgarh. Pyatkar paintings from Dalbhumgarh depict both mythology and real-life situations. Kumar has also sourced tribal paintings and designs such as jadupatua, the ancient storytelling art from Dumka; and sohrai and khovar paintings, a form of Santhal art and a tribal wedding decoration, respectively.

Maati Ghar also teaches tribal art to 40 urban schoolchildren at a hobby class on St Xavier's English High School campus, where Kumar studied before going on to do his BTech in industrial engineering and management from NIT-Kurukshetra and a distance diploma course in entrepreneurship from Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI), Ahmedabad.

Why did a trained techie like him think about possibilities of entrepreneurship in tribal art?

"I guess I think there's more entrepreneurial scope in offbeat things as conventional businesses get saturated. Also, having grown up here, I know the wealth of tribal art that's neglected. Youngsters like me in tribal families fear taking up the craft of their ancestors because they don't know how to market the items," Kumar said, adding he also held exhibitions, school workshops and training sessions for rural women to popularise tribal art.

Pyatkar artist Bijoy Chitrakar praised Kumar's efforts. "Income is a problem for artists. We can only paint, we are not in touch with the market. If people like Virendra (Kumar) help us, our sons and daughters will start learning our ancient art forms and earn a decent living from them," he said.

Would you like to buy affordable tribal art?
Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com

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