The pandemic has not only affected their lifestyle but also changed the canvas for art and craft. Around 75 families at Hobichak and Nankarchak villages in East Midnapore are using masks, instead of cloth, flower vase, Durga pot to paint Patachitra, the subjects of which revolve around folklore, mythological and religious stories and social messages.
For generations, the Patachitra artists, known as ‘Patuas’, have been painting vivid imageries on long scrolls to narrate a tale with a catchy song called ‘Pater Gan’ The pandemic has robbed them of their primary source of income as all fairs and exhibitions have been cancelled due to the pandemic-induced curbs.
“Most of the artists started to paint on masks as it helped us remain relevant in times of adversity and generate income. It also provided us with an opportunity to uphold our creativity,” said Sayera Chitrakar, an artist. Echoing her, another artist, Jharna Chitrakar, said that they decided to paint different themes like nature, tribal life, episodes of folklore, mythological stories and images creating awareness on Covid on masks, which have become indispensable during the pandemic. They sold these masks for Rs 60 each.
Abed Chitrakar, secretary of Hobichak Nankarchak Lok Shikha Shilpa Patua Samiti, said that the masks made by the artists were popularised through social media.
“The pictures of the mask were put up on Facebook and within a short period it got a good response. During the lockdown in 2020 there was a huge demand for these masks. People from different parts of the country ordered these masks. Now, the demand has slightly reduced but we have made a turnover of nearly Rs 12 lakh.”
Bikram Mitra of Earth Craft, a social enterprise, has come forwarded to help these painters as he is planning to develop a sustainable tourism in this area to save the art form.
Source: Times of India