Thursday, May 6

Art a vehicle for progress in Hooghly village

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An art movement involving artists from 73 countries has changed a tiny hamlet in Babnan, Hooghly.

Workshops on handicrafts and life skills have helped foster a new consciousness and made the villagers aware of the importance of education and empowerment.

Six months ago, Komdhara village was like any other in the vicinity. Its residents were mostly farmers, earning not more than Rs 3,000 a month. Villagers had to travel 18km to reach the nearest hospital, only 60 per cent were literate and there were instances of child marriage too.

Today women are trying to supplement their family income through jewellery-making and handicrafts. The village is cleaner and many have shunned plastic. Some are trying to set up a health centre with a visiting doctor. Artist Bibek Santra, born in Komdhara and now settled in Pondicherry, is at the helm of the Narrative Movements, an artists’ conglomerate that is bringing about development through art.

An art installation exhi- bition — Bangla Biennale — hosted by Narrative Movements gave Komdhara near Singur a new look and a new outlook. Artists from Switzerland, Malaysia, England, France, Hungary and worked along with the residents to turn the village into a cultural hub from February 8 to 20.

The bare walls of houses were spruced up with graffiti and collages. Roads, public spaces and even trees were beautified with illustrations and masks. An artist gifted the village a peace gate made of iron sheets.

The village festival area now has a permanent installation of a haystack that can be used as a pandal or a shaded venue for meetings. The ghat area has been beautified. Dustbins have been placed at strategic points to keep the village clean.

“Most of the installations were made of natural materials such as mud, hay, bamboo sticks, ropes and earthen pots procured locally. Local craftsmen worked alongside the artists, learning new things every day. Now the villagers know the importance of being environment-friendly,” said Santra, who has been working with the Komdhara Barowari Samity.

“When I was young I had to walk 15km to reach school. The village did not even have proper roads. Now I want the villagers to campaign for better infrastructure through art,” the Kala Bhavana alumni said.

Calcutta artist Sanchita Das heads the empowerment programme for women, teaching nearly 40 women kantha stitch and jewellery-making. “Slowly the women are learning how to sustain themselves. I plan to come here every weekend and oversee the sessions,” she said..

Source: Telegraph India

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