Patrons of traditional Indian craft can witness a vibrant collection of arts, crafts and textiles from all over India in Pune at the Dastkari Haat Samiti festival
India and art are often spoken of together, what with the vast geographical, linguistic and cultural diversity here, and the resultant variety of art that’s peculiar to all these distinct regions across India. Artisans who have been practising some art forms for generations are not a rarity, one comes across such traditional art forms and artisans in every state of the country.
Bringing them together, is the Dastkari Haat Samiti, which is currently hosting a crafts festival in the city. Craft connoisseurs of Pune will get an opportunity to witness an exciting and vibrant collection of art, crafts and textiles from all over India, sold directly by their makers here. “We are a national association of Indian craftspersons established in 1986 by social and political activist Jaya Jaitly. The association consists of a large membership of craftspersons as individuals, family units, cooperatives, associations and societies,” explains the Samiti’s executive coordinator Charudutt Verma.
Among the many artisans gathered here is Vijay Soni, who creates wonders simply using handmade paper and scissors. “This is known as the Sanjhi art and ours is the only family in India that practises this art in this form. We source handmade paper from wherever we go and carve through it with scissors,” explains the native of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Soni has been into this profession since childhood and is the fifth generation Sanjhi artisan of his family. “My brother has also received a UNESCO award for this,” Soni proudly tells us.
A few feet away, is the stall of Rajesh Roy, who creates beautiful artefacts and jewellery out of wood. “All of this is hand-painted using acrylic colours,” says Roy, who is helped by his wife in making the intricate designs on wooden earrings, bangles, and pendants, along with some wall pieces. The couple resides in Kolkata and have learnt the art from their ancestors.
Explaining the role of the Samiti in their livelihood, Omprakash Bind from Uttar Pradesh says, “The Samiti believes in sustaining traditional skills and livelihoods and in ensuring the continuity of India’s cultural heritage through crafts, art and textiles by according respect and dignity to practitioners of handwork.” He uses the sarpat or moonjh grass to make baskets and containers. The grass is soaked in water and softened before weaving it using one tiny nail, he explains.
The festival not only hosts such young talented artists, but also senior citizens who have been associated with the Samiti for years. Umar Daraz, who has been with Dastkari for 40 years now, makes kites of all sizes and of all possible materials. “I learnt this from my father and have also been invited to Russia and other countries to make huge kites and even fly them,” he says. Daraz has flown a 6.5-feet large kite in Russia a couple of years ago.
Working to raise the social and economic status of craftspersons by infusing innovation and introducing new modes of creativity has been the motive of the Samiti, which supported Kaushal Prasad in practising the traditional Gond art of Madhya Pradesh. “We use natural colours to make intricate designs on canvas. This has been our traditional art that was earlier practised on walls. It is still seen in some villages of MP during Diwali. My maternal uncle began this and I learnt it from him. Our designs are so varied that we can identify the artist behind any Gond work easily,” says Prasad, whose uncle and well-known artist Jangad Singh Shyam, has painted the Vidhan Sabha wall in Bhopal.
Other artists at the festival include Shabbir Ali Baig from Jammu and Kashmir, who practises the traditional Sonjhni art (needle work) to create beautiful shawls, sarees, and dupattas. His family, he tells us, has won several awards for their work. Also present is S Lalitham, who created attractive lamp shades, wall hangings and other decorative items by painting dried leather. “We boil raw leather and then sun dry it before beginning work,” she explains the process behind this Andhra Pradesh art form.
As you look through these marvellous artefacts at the festival, you cannot miss the beautiful music being played by the Manganiyar singers from Rajasthan. “This has been our traditional music and we own instruments that are even 600 years old,” concludes Gopa Khan, pointing towards his Kamaicha, a bowed string instrument.
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The festival will be on at The Monalisa Kalagram, next to Blossom Boulevard Building, end of South Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune, up to November 12, 11 am - 8 pm