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This Unique Crafts Village in Kerala Sets an Example of How Tourism Can Help Rural Artisans

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How does a young person, who is born deaf and dumb communicate his feelings? How does he express his artistic skills? More so for a young person whose parents are coolies and uneducated. How do they raise such a child? It is a very difficult question, particularly to most of us, who do not have this disability. There are so many questions to it.

But when we see A K Arun at his art, all questions cease to exist.

Shri A K Arun was born on April 10, 1987, (29 years) at Villiappally (Vadakara) in Kozikode District of Kerala to parents who were very poor. He was born deaf and dumb and perhaps the parents gave up even trying for his treatment. Despite such disability, he attended the Rotary Special School, Vadakara and completed his SSC. He was interested in fine arts like drawing, painting etc., and somehow managed to join the Kerala School of Arts, Thalassery, and completed the Kerala Government Certificate Examination in Fine Arts.

His heart and skill lay in painting and sculpting. As a freelance artist he earned around Rs. 2,500/- per month. But his fortune changed when he was identified by the CEO and other staff of Sargaalaya.

Sargaalaya is a unique tourist destination, a soothing experience for every visitor. Sargaalaya Kerala Arts and Crafts village is an initiative of Department of Tourism, Govt. of Kerala. It was established at Iringal, Kozikode district and inaugurated on February 19, 2011 as a part of responsible tourism project in 20 acres of land on the banks of Moorad River, close to National Highway in Iringal, Kozhikode. Started as a venture for the development of Traditional Arts and Crafts of India, with specific focus on Kerala, this has become one of the major tourist attractions of Kerala.

Along with international travellers, 2.9 lakh people visited the spot last year. Sargaalaya has been awarded India’s Best Rural Tourism Project by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. The project is managed by the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society Ltd.

The craft village is a cluster of skilled artisans – a group that makes majestic craft pieces and another group that performs the traditional art forms. Visitors to the Crafts village are encouraged to interact and learn from these talented artisans. There are 27 cottages in the craft villages where more than 60 varieties of crafts are made by hand. With the rare combination of art and tourism, the village paves a platform for the development of traditional artisans. The whole traditional industry of Arts and Handicrafts is getting boosted with ample opportunity for sale of their products and they are given brand protection as well. The large number of art lovers and tourists can witness live display of craftsmanship.

Sargaalaya conducts a two-week Annual Arts and Crafts Festival during last week of December every year.

Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Kerala and NABARD, SZCC, Thanjavur are supporting Sargaalaya for the Sargaalaya International Arts and Crafts Festival.

It is at Sargaalaya that Arun honed his skills. He participated in the Puthukotta-style terracotta workshop, which was organized at Sargaalaya during May 2015. Arun had the opportunity to experience the making and moulding of the unique terracotta sculptures.

Through such workshops and other training programmes, Arun got the necessary exposure to different techniques of Fired Clay Sculptures, detailed training on techniques involved in making Terracotta Crafts and he got opportunities to interact with senior artists and sculptors. His sculptures of birds, animals etc., are drawn from nature and are extremely realistic. Thanks to the dedicated team of Sargaalaya, raw material for all the 60+ artisans, including Arun is arranged by Sargaalaya and marketing is also taken care of by the organization.

Arun has been provided a separate stall with all facilities and given full freedom to pursue his craft. He is now earning around Rs.20,000 per month, and is also provided housing at Sargaalaya. The artisan is grateful to Sargaalaya for the opportunity.

The ideal combination of Sargaalaya and the artisans is a win-win situation for both. Sargaalaya provides the infrastructure, raw material, stay arrangements, training inputs, marketing platform and the artisans blissfully create their craft in a serene atmosphere. For the visitor, it is an amazing experience to witness first-hand the skill of such renowned artisans. Let us hope such initiatives are replicated elsewhere.

Know more about Sargaalaya here.

(Written by K.L Vinaya)

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