If there’s one thing every art lover will agree to, it’s the fact that while art often gets appreciated, the creator remains mostly forgotten. In India especially, traditional artforms are dying by the minute, mainly because of how commercialised consumerism has become.
We spoke to the Padmaja Jalihal, 51, founder of Heart for Art Trust, about how they’re bringing about a difference in the arts and crafts scene of India.
Heart for Art was formed with the sole idea of reviving India’s art scene by increasing the livelihoods of rural artisans by giving them work, market access, exposure to consumers and of course, business. “My husband, Sunil and I have taken several tours to meet the artisans of many states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Manipur. All of them had only one concern: while they knew traditional and authentic artforms, they didn’t have the work,” says Jalihal, who resides in Pune.
So, how did she finally manage to form a workbase of 400+ artisans in the five years since the trust was formed? She says, she took it one step at a time. “From understanding their products, curating them online on our site, to creating public and private partnerships to find the space to showcase their art and craft, it’s been quite a journey,” she adds.
Heart of Art has over 65 crafts listed on their platform. What’s interesting is that they are all made of eco-friendly, sustainable materials such as jute, sabai and sikki grass, golden palm leaf and banana fibre. When asked what her personal favourites are, Jalihal was quick to share, “Traditional toys, board games, paintings, masks, and definitely the wooden home decor items.”
She says even their workshops are quite something. That’s because it gives the artisans an opportunity to directly interact with the consumers. From mask making workshops, pottery-making, basket-weaving to metal work, the artisans feel tremendous pride while passing on their knowledge and expertise to the students.
When asked about what the trust’s impact has been so far, Jalihal mentions that it’s an on-going, continuous process. They keep telling stories, generating awareness and educating people of all ages about the richness of our country’s arts and crafts. When that results in actual sales of handcrafted products and recognition for the artform as well as the artisans, they feel happy and content.
Jalihal says there’s huge potential for our traditional handicraft industry to soar. “With design entrepreneurs, NGOs, government departments, tourism departments doing a number of things to revive artforms and bring means of livelihood for the rural artisans, we sure can make a difference. If Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, South Africa can stand up against the international markets and market their traditional artforms so beautifully, why can’t we?” she concludes.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)