Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An online market for Raghurajpur

Time is Money, they say.

I say, it depends on you are.

In 2007, the richest man in India earned Rs 10 per second. That equals Rs 2,59,20,000 over 2592000 seconds. A month, to be precise.

So his time is certainly worth a lot of money.

Now pit that whopping figure against a mere Rs 5000 earned by a humble craftsman in Raghurajpur in Orissa, for a month of back-breaking, wrist-straining, eye-stinging and head-hurting labour. While the villagers, every one of them a skilled artist, are adept at making a variety of handicrafts, the art that has catapulted this humble village to the limelight is Pattachitra.

Pattachitra literally means painting on leaf or cloth. These paintings are made by hand over a large piece of treated cloth. Colourful and intricate images of gods, goddesses and the abundance that is Indian mythology, not to mention the beauty of everyday life, are the hallmark of pattachitra.

Connoisseurs understand the value of these works, understand too the effort that goes into them, the legacy of centuries of tradition and culture that they represent. Unfortunately, while the art itself is celebrated, the humble craftsmen who literally gives up his life for his art, lives and dies neglected, impoverished, struggling to eke out a living.

The beautiful pattachitra paintings are bought from the craftsmen for Rs 5000, then sold for any amount between Rs 10,000-15,000. Ultimately, this buyer, only the middleman, will sell it for Rs 30,000 or Rs 40,000, an amount of money that the artist will have to slog six-seven months to earn.

Every stroke requires masterful accomplishment. Despite the lack of training, the art has been meticulously passed down the generations. In today’s age, however, few would wish this kind of a life upon their children. Any wonder then that many of the most crucial elements of our fine arts heritage are dying out.

If there is anything that has sustained the artistic tradition, it is no thanks to us. Much as we pride ourselves on belonging to a nation whose artistic and cultural tradition dates back thousands of years, we have not done anything to drive awareness about the plight of these artisans.

It is not easy for artists with no financial backing, to continue to battle obstacles in the struggle to keep their art and families alive.

Orissa has been unfortunate in not having benefited from the wave of development and progress that has enveloped other parts of the country.

These artists need support. Our support, if we would but give it.

Now Tata Capital has embarked on its Half Stories campaign. Stories of unfulfilled dreams, of deadends in the way of life’s journeys. Photographer Pankaj has been scouring the expanse of India, looking for stories to complete, using the power of crowd sourcing.

The fifth stop in the Half Stories journey, Tata Capital has hit upon the novel idea of designing, creating and establishing a website for the artisans. One that they can learn to manage themselves.

A website would take the Raghurajpur story to the world, to people who appreciate beauty. People who would value the hard work of the artist who spends his time and energy in creating something beautiful.

A website would bring in customers, prospective and current ones, face to face with the artists. It would foster a greater degree of appreciation for the craftsmen, ensure customization of art objects for the buyer and a steady amount of work for the artists.

A website can make it possible for the customer to meet the artists, without the middle man clogging the exchange.

Let’s make this website a reality for the artists of Raghurajpur and keep the pattachitra tradition alive.

Tata Capital's efforts have already yielded the amount required to build the website.

Now it is up to us to create awareness about this so that the artists can be assured of lucrative work once the website comes into being.

(This post was written for the Half Stories campaign held in association with Indiblogger.)

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