#HeritageTransmission - Traditional art connects the hearts of the masters with the village young in unique workshops at #RuralCraftHubs
Bijoy Sutradhar, a wooden doll making legend and a village elder of great repute had told me something that had moved me into deep thinking. “The world is obsessed with the conundrum of whether it was the egg or the chicken that came first? And in their haste to find answers, they ignore both the egg and the chicken, not knowing what to do with either, when they have them in their hands.”
This was in context of the Common Facility Centre that was then being constructed in his village. On paper, the idea was lofty – to create the infrastructure around which the art of the people can be refurbished, even revived with the view towards empowering the local artists, help them establish the last mile connectivity with the markets and link them to the tourism trails to increase both exposure and appreciation.
Today, his village has a swank common facility center – museum for local art, space for the artists to hold workshops, society offices to thrash out common concerns, accommodation for guests, et all – just the time to put the chicken and the egg to work. And it is towards the achievement of this objective that the Heritage Transmission Workshops were organised in the six Rural Craft Hubs of West Bengal between May 26th and 28th of 2016.
The objective of the exercise was two-fold. One was to engage the young people of the artist’s villages with their tradition and the other was to get more people involved with the CFC to develop ownership. The chicken and the egg, as opposed to the chicken or the egg that Bijoy Sutradhar had pointed out. For what good is a CFC to a village if it becomes only the exclusive domain of the artists and does not embrace the entire village to share its nectar? Similarly, shouldn’t one of the key functions of the CFC be to act as a catalyst – to foster change in the impressionable minds of the village children and connect them to their art and legacies?
On the 3 days of the workshop, the children were oriented on the history of their place in the context of their craft tradition, the history of the craft itself and given an introductory training on the making by the senior artists of the village. Theatre based fun and participatory activities were used to make the whole learning process fun and easy for comprehension. Children were also introduced to Photography as a tool to express their feelings. They were also oriented on aspects like framing and story-telling through photographs. The children then clicked photographs of various aspects of their life, their village and the art that makes them special. The 3 days were concluded with folk cultural presentations at each hub by artists who were identified with potential during our recently concluded Baul trainings, thereby adding another dimension to the entire process.
Dilip Sutradhar, one of the star doll makers of Natungram was ecstatic: “I am amazed at the level of understanding and ability of the children to replicate our art. As they have had no formal training, I believe they have reached this level of proficiency only by watching us work, which is remarkable. I will not be able to express in words just how excited I feel about this – the children of our village are not only able, but also willing to embrace the art of our forefathers. I can now rest in peace, knowing that the hands that will curve our tradition and take it into the future are ready.”