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Strengthening skill base for the Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of Bengal

Bengal has historically held its title as the cultural capital of India. The Art & Craft traditions of Bengal are rich in content, varied in their styles, exhibiting all the hues of the rainbow in their finer nuances. Government of West Bengal’s Department of Micro Small Medium Enterprises & Textiles (MSME&T), with a vision of capitalising the cultural richness of the state for developing grassroot creative enterprises, undertook the Rural Craft Hub (RCH) project with 3000 crafts artists across Bengal from 2013 to 2016 in partnership with UNESCO. The project demonstrated how traditional art can be the epicentre of vibrant eco-systems that are self-sustaining. Buoyed by the success of RCH, MSME&T Dept.  and UNESCO initiated Rural Craft & Cultural (RCCH) project in late 2016 to reach out to 15000 people involved with folk and handicrafts in the state.

banglanatak dot com is the implementation partner for both RCH and RCCH project using our Art for Life (AFL) methodology. The methodology used for AFL has 3 main pillars, Capacity Building for improving the skill base, Direct Market Linkage and Exchange & Collaborations.

We just concluded a series of capacity building workshops in different rural locations of Bengal using Guru Shishiya Parampara with the objective of improving the basic skills. Each community and their traditional art form have specific needs. The capacity building workshops were designed to address the specific skill needs and gaps  with the objective of enhancing the market potential of the artists.

The mystical Bauls & Fakirs of Bengal underwent training under the local exponents on the form, content, style and presentation through enhancement of understanding of the underlying philosophical discourse, learning new songs for enriching their repertoire. Trainings were also organized for the instrumentalists of Baul-Fakiri music to enhance their skill aimed at qualitative improvement of the overall presentations. There were 750 participants in 7 workshops.

For training of Bhawaiya artists, the lifestyle music from north Bengal, 5 days workshops were organised at different centres of Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts. A total 767 artists participated in the workshops and were trained to strengthen their renditions.

Chau, the masked martial art based acrobatic dance form of Purulia is inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. It represents a large skill base in the context of RCCH project objective. The Chau trainings targeted broadening the skill base further. A total 9 residential training workshops were held at Nimdih (a Gandhi Ashram at Purulia-Jharkhand border) to train a total 1345 artists. The trainings focused on improving the quality of performance.

The puppetry tradition of Bengal is in need of urgent safeguarding and revitalization. Increase in options of entertainment and lack of innovation and improvisation forced puppeteers of the state to explore other livelihood options of survival in the absence of adequate market. The Puppetry workshops thus introduced new stories for the puppet theatre which have been hinged on the traditional Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. A total 37 participants from Bankura, Bardhaman and Nadia participated in the residential workshop at Tepantar (a theatre village in Bardhaman). 


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