Life & Style

Treasure trove of Bengali folk craft

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At Bengal Craft Bonanza, a plethora of folk craft and artworks from the region will be on display. And at the helm of things will be Nandita Palchoudhuri (Trustee, Academy of Fine Arts, and head of the Crafts Council) — a social entrepreneur curating and consulting in the field of Indian folk art, craft and performance practices. For the past two decades, she has been designing and delivering exhibitions, installations, educational workshops, etc not only to regenerate the craft but also provide a sustainable livelihood for the artisans. The curator shares with us what one can expect at the show, “Masks, Sholapith sculpture, high-end Kantha embroidery, Gamcha-based clothes, Muslin and Jamdani textiles, ceramics and jewellery will be very interesting.” She also tells us what makes her unite Indian folk art and craft with social welfare.

What was the curating process for the show like?
Bengal is concentrated with a huge variety of handmade crafts, and it is always difficult to make a choice of a few. However, we have selected products that have been created keeping alive the authenticity of material and technique but have taken forms that might interest the contemporary Mumbai buyer.

What makes you marry Indian folk art with social welfare?
Artisans are the second largest workforce in India after agriculture. Sustainable employment through the practice of traditional artistry not only keeps these astounding skill banks alive, nourishes the environment by the use of natural products but also reduces the pressure of migration for urban employment.

What are your upcoming projects?
A membership-based Artisans Chamber of Commerce where the different constituents of the craft business such as costing, accounting, transactional English and the use of the email and internet etc can be supported so that the artisan learns to negotiate the market directly. And a travelling trunk show of master crafts to the boarding schools of India.

Which is the most underrated craft form in India, in your opinion?
The skills involved in each craft is very refined, so, it’s hard to select just one. Currently, my work is concentrated on Sholapith — the spellbinding sculpture from the pith (Indian cork) of a water weed stem.

How can it be popularised?
Creating attractive products using traditional skills that the urban consumer can use is one end of the spectrum. The more critical investment is to create awareness in the Indian urban children about the wealth of handmade skills so that Indian crafts becomes a lifestyle choice.

When: November 30-December 2, 11 am to 7 pm Where: Baro, Lower Parel