What keeps the rural craftspeople ticking..
Anyone who has traveled abroad especially to Europe know how well their local crafts are promoted and how well they are packaged and though exorbitantly priced , lapped up by even Indian who visit as tourists. It is these very traveled Indian who over a period of time realises that what he/she has back home is probably as rich in the arts space but lacks the right platform. Also the average urban dweller feels closer to the western world as the lives we lead ( outside of our festivals celebrated ) are largely western influenced – movies, music, weekends hangouts etc ) . But since art & craft does not exist in our education curriculum there is no way that any latent aesthetic sense or interest is built in them; hence a genera apathy to our own indigenous art forms. Most Indians may not be aware of the art form of their own hometowns.
We currently work with about 150 rural/tribal craftspeople. We originally started with just a handful but through a mix of press articles written about us ( especially in the vernacular media ) and good word of mouth we have been able to partner with more artisans across the country. We currently work with about 30 Indigenous craft & art forms directly.
It’s been an interesting journey with them and making their acquaintance itself in the first place was driven by stupendous amounts of serendipity and good fortune. In our constant interactions there are several bonds that have formed as well including meals enjoyed in their homes and stories exchanged.
Most of our rural craftspeople are farmers, hence the art & craft they practise is a supplementary income to them or probably the only income given that they end up bartering the food they grow for other essentials. They look at the city life and all of us as a privileged lot and aspire that their children also grow into english speaking corporate employees with homes & cars and a great life. Very few of them are determined enough to educate their next generation and to bring them back into their craft to make improvements or to grow their business. In fact out of the 150 we know only 7 have their next generation working with/for them. The rest are growing up to by clones of city boys & girls ( engg + mba etc ) . The thing is since their english communication skills are poor, they do not land great jobs hence they don’t live up to their aspirations and at the same time cannot go back and join their traditional craft work as they seem to have grown out of the same and in most cases they also do not know their traditional craft since they have spent all their childhood in conventional schools.
As urban consumers we must look at what we buy and where we buy from, especially since buying a original craft/art forms from a part of our country, even if it is just our home town is not just preserving the art by giving finance & more importantly hope to the creators but is also creating a promoter in the buyer whose home will now become the marketing point for other customers to seek the same creation.
It is this hope that i see glimmering in the eyes of these 7 artisans who have their sons & daughters working with them that needs to grow into a significant tribe of artisans practising their highest form of mastery and allowing the great heritage of art & craft in our country to start thriving.
Till next time.