India is a country replete with a number of unique heritage arts and crafts that need to be revived. Recognising the potential of craftspersons between the ages of 14 and 20, and encouraging them to continue practising traditional crafts, six individuals were honoured with the Kamaladevi Puraskar 2021 by the Delhi Crafts Council (DCC)—a non-profit organisation working towards the upliftment of traditional craftspersons in India—at Gandhi King Plaza, India International Centre on Max Mueller Marg.
This year, the award—presented annually since 1986 in the memory of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the founder of DCC—was given to young artisans from Odisha, Nagaland, Punjab, and West Bengal (WB). “We look at the sincerity of the artisan and the authenticity of the craft. This award shines a beacon of hope for those still interested in traditional crafts of the country,” said Kamayani Jalan, President of DCC.
The awardees were felicitated by Indian economist Devaki Jain, who attended the ceremony as Chief Guest. “Handicrafts exist as employment providers for many in the country, but unfortunately they are not seen as that. India is one of the few places where handicrafts are still available as consumer goods and we need to do all we can to sustain them. We need to make people understand that crafts can be utility goods and not just arts,” Jain shared.
A unique compilation
The small open-air event commenced with a traditional dance performance by an Adivasi dance group from Chhattisgarh before the honorees were awarded with a certificate, a monthly scholarship of `1,500 for 18 months, along with a smartphone. The varied crafts that the awardees specialise in were also on sale at the venue. While Subhalaxmi Bal from Odisha (20) specialises in golden grass weaving, Aman L Konyak (15) from Nagaland was awarded for bead necklace making, a craft she learnt from her mother.
Another recipient of the award this year, Priya Karmakar’s (18), is skilled at the innovative craft of Sherpai or Suri bowl making—wood is carved into bowls and then embellished with sheet brass decorations. Hailing from the Birbhum district of WB, Karmakar adopted the skill from her father and wishes to carry on her family tradition. “It is a detail-oriented process. It takes almost a week to complete one set. A lot of people have no idea about this craft so I’m glad that the DCC is trying to help me bring it to the forefront,” she concluded.