BANGALORE: At a lecture in 1882, Oscar Wilde had said, “A handicraftsman needs your encouragement and he must have beautiful surroundings. Your people love art but do not sufficiently honour the handicraftsman.”
Founded on this philosophy, a Bangalore-based NGO, Sampoorn, has aimed to promote the country’s lesser-known handicrafts from different parts of the country and provide an interactive platform for the craftsmen through various exhibitions, since its inception in 2000. From just 10 artisans, there are now over 450 craftsmen who work under the Sampoorn banner and they all are famous for their artistic ingenuity. The organisation, which is a member of the World Crafts Council, has helped revive art forms like ganjifa, dhokra cast metal and iron items, silver and metal jewellery, terracotta, pottery, bamboo products, oakwood silks, hatina crafts, handwoven tussar and Tanjore art forms, among others.
To showcase the art forms, Sampoorn organises an exhibition titled ‘Sampoorn Santhe’ every year and the 14th edition of the Santhe, is ongoing at the Chitrakala Parishat. Shalini, the secretary of the organisation, says, “Bangalore as a city loves arts. Every year, we get a great response for our exhibition and this has helped grow the urban market for the indigenous handicrafts. The santhe is a treasure trove of indigenous techniques, textures and designs, blending the traditional with the modern. This year’s exhibition will see some crafts that have never travelled to Bangalore before.”
A primary challenge the participating artisans face is that they are not equipped to promote their crafts owing to language barriers or cost constraints. Shalini speaks of an artisan from Andhra Pradesh specialised in leather puppetry who couldn’t afford to travel to Bangalore. However, after much convincing, he agreed to take part in the organisation’s exhibition. “Now, he comes to Bangalore every year and takes part in other exhibitions as well,” Shalini says.
Apart from exhibitions, the organisation also aims to help these craftsmen sustain themselves through various developmental initiatives. Says Sudarshan, a member of the organisation, “Currently, we are working with four clusters of crafts in the country — leather puppets and kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Block prints from Sanganer in Rajasthan and traditional lacquerware from Channapatna in Karnataka. We offer the craftsmen from these clusters inputs with regard to design and product development, upgradation of skills and tools and marketing of the products.
Though the country is very receptive to these indigenous art forms, Sudarshan says that the awareness is very low. Hence, he says, “We will be creating a ‘Crafts Map of India’ which will have details about all the arts and its subsections. For this, our team will travel to different parts of the country and interact with craft groups. As we do not work with external agencies, the process is getting delayed. We will release the report in two years’ time.”