India is progressing rapidly and taking gigantic strides towards financial dominance. Gone are the days when buying things was difficult. Today youngsters are able to afford beautiful homes and have abundant disposable income. Houses are also no longer basic but have beautiful paintings and sculptures adorning its walls. Wouldn’t we all love to have beautiful Indian paintings adorning our walls? Alas! only a few traditional artisans now practice these art forms as most of them have migrated to other jobs due to lack of opportunities.
India has a rich history and heritage of arts and crafts from different regions, along with a growing tourism industry. Combining the two can help empower the livelihoods in rural India while giving India’s crafts heritage the visibility it deserves at the same time.
Mr Virendra Kumar a young Industrial Engineer from NIT Kurukshetra decided to do something to empower the artisans from his home state of Jharkhand through Maati Ghar (https://www.facebook.com/maatikaghar/). He has been working tirelessly for the last two years and has invested all of his savings and his personal money to this cause. He has managed to register his initiative, Maati Ghar as a non-profit. He ran hobby classes and taught in a school to be able to generate funds to help the artisans. His commitment is unparalleled in that he left his well-paying job of a business analyst in an MNC to take up this cause.
Mr Virendra Kumar has used his experience as the Student President of Entrepreneurship Development Cell and his Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Business Management from EDII, Ahmedabad towards his social enterprise called Maati Ghar. Through his NGO Mr Virendra Kumar tries to solve the problems faced by artisans such as lack of training, finance and marketing of their products.
The modus of working
Mr Virendra picks up one particular art form and works with one artisan to create a sample of a saleable product and then aggressively markets them to create demand. This creates financial viability for the artisan and encourages others to pick up/restart the craft. Mr Virendra is very careful to ensure that they make a sustainable and rooted change on the ground and hence they extend the support to more artisans only after he has created sufficient demand to ensure that artisans find financial viability.
Work done so far:
- Organized exhibitions across cities,
- Held workshops in schools,
- Conducted training sessions for rural women,
- Created an online portal for selling artworks,
- Created some beautiful products,
- and, are successfully running tribal art classes for children.
Apart from financial difficulties he faced resistance from his family as his parents didn’t like his idea of leaving a well paid secure job. It was tough to brave the financial difficulties and family resistance but his troubles did not end there he faced resistance and doubts from the very artisans for whom he was struggling since in the past other NGOs had not lived up to their promises of helping them. He feels there is a lot more to do as he is unable to help artisans from different parts of the state due to logistical, financial and time constraints. Mr Virendra says “Now, as I can work full time for the cause, I have decided to solve artisans problems one by one.”
A brief look at the art forms that Mr Virendra is trying to revive
- Sohrai Art: A matriarchal art inspired by rock arts of the regions of Hazaribagh, is done using only natural earth by women of the households during the festival of ‘Sohrai’ to worship the God of animals, “Pashupati” and welcome a good harvest.
- Khovar Art: A matriarchal art of sgraffito style inspired by rock arts in the regions of Hazaribagh, is done using natural earth (black and white) by women of the households during marriage ceremonies to welcome and bless a newly-wed couple.
- Paitkar Art: An ancient storytelling tradition from East Singhbhum on scrolls of paper or cloth reflecting the day to day life of tribal people, stories of legends & mythologies is done using colours extracted from natural pigments.
- Jadupatua Art: An ancient storytelling tradition from Dumka on scrolls of paper or cloth depicting the stories of the afterlife, the creation of world, legends & mythologies from Hindu epics is done using colours extracted from natural pigments.
“We have been able to successfully preserve the Paitkar Art by passing it to the hands of the next generation from one of the two remaining traditional practitioners of the art along with creating a steady source of income for him.” said Mr Virendra
Let’s hear from him only…
“The vision for MAATI GHAR took place when I met Vijay Ji two years ago in his village Amadubi. Chitrakar or Painter is a community found in regions around the border of West Bengal and Jharkhand. They can also be found in Dumka district of Jharkhand where they do Jadupatua Paintings.
They all share a common fate, they are giving upon their tradition of painting scrolls with natural colours, the reason being the lack of support in the form of marketing and training. This is what Vijay Ji said when I met him. Those lines were enough for me to lose my sleep. I decided to explore the condition of other artisans practising different art forms across the state.
For the next six months, we visited various regions of Hazaribagh and Dumka only to find the same situation everywhere. Doing so, I found my companion Sandeep who was pursuing his Bachelors in Fine Arts.
We were now determined to support these artisans in whatever way possible. But, we had our own challenges for we were short on time and funds. I had just left my job at an MNC after listening to my heart. Since my college days, I always wanted to be a social entrepreneur, but some financial debts kept me tied. After a five-day meditation program, I was able to break out of my fears and thus left my job. So, when I stumbled into these paintings I was working as a school teacher and along with my friends set up a low-cost hobby class for underprivileged children. As Sandeep too was still studying, we used to have very less time to support the cause; still, we continued doing our bit. We made an online store to sell the tribal paintings, organized training sessions, conducted workshops in school and held exhibitions across cities to promote the art forms, all at our personal expenses.
Today I have left teaching to devote full-time to MAATI GHAR after registering it as a non-profit. Sandeep is about to graduate and will join me full-time very soon. We have some other friends contributing in some way or the other through different locations. The best part is we have a lot of great advisors guiding us at every step, they are a pillar of strength to us, you can see them on our website Board of Advisors section.
About supporting art and artisans, we have been able to successfully preserve Paitkar art form by passing it into the hands of the next generation from Vijay Ji’s hands. He now teaches the nuances of his painting to young children without compromising the traditional nature of painting. Children love to grindstones, leaves and flowers to take the colours out. It’s the most interesting hobby of my hobby classes which runs on weekends. Meanwhile, Vijay Ji now has a regular source of income for him, paintings sold by us for him every month adds to his income too. Now, we are eyeing on other artisans and with your support, we can achieve results much faster.
Here is Vijay Ji’s at present.
For more details visit : http://www.maatighar.org
-Written by Deepika Vemuri
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