Friday, September 20

Unesco boost for Bengal’s artisans

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A collaboration between Unesco and the state government has helped thousands of artistsans in Bengal’s villages and prevented their migration to the city, finance minister Amit Mitra said on Monday.

Many of these villages are now getting a steady stream of tourists who want to see the artisans at work and buy their products, the minister said.

Pingla in West Midnapore has about 300 patachitra artisans, while around 180 villagers in Notungram, Burd- wan, are engaged in making wooden dolls.

The success of the collaboration that began in 2013 prompted the government to sign another memorandum of understanding with the Unesco in 2016 for three years. “We started with 3,000 artisans in 2013 and today we have 25,000 artisans covered under this initiative,” Mitra said.

The state government funded the training that included marketing skills and even lessons in basic English to help the artisans interact with international buyers. “Unesco provided the soft skills to the artisans,” he said. The greatest success of the initiative has been an increase in the income of the villagers, which in turn has checked migration to the city in search of work. “There are villages where people used to earn Rs 500 a month but after this initiative they make about Rs 7,500 in a month,” the minister said.

Seema Murmu, 24, has seen her income go up manifold over the past four years. “Earlier, I used to stitch ropes and earn about Rs 25 a day. Now I make baskets with sabai grass and it fetches me more money,” said the resident of Purulia’s Manbazar II block. Murmu said it takes about two days to make one basket that sells for about Rs 200.

Amitava Bhattacharya, the founder director of banglanatak.com, the national partner of Unesco, said the initiative had helped revive 10 craft forms, including dokra, patachitra, kantha and terracotta.

“We have also trained the artistsans to protect their intellectual property rights. The community got mobilised so well that villages applied for GI tags for some crafts,” Bhattacharya said.

Eric Falt, the director of Unesco’s New Delhi office, said Pingla in West Midnapore was a good example of revival of the traditional art and craft forms. “It is a village where just about every house has artists. People visit the village to see the artisans working and buy products. This has generated huge tourism potential for the place,” he said.

The success of the initiative in Bengal had prompted a tieup with the government of Rajasthan. “The infrastructure in Rajasthan is better in some respects. In rural Rajasthan, you will get some hotels but not in rural Bengal,” he said.

 

Source: The Telegraph

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