pattachitra – master craftsmen – demo

Thanks to an yet-another-intiative of  Jayashree Janardhan Ashok – a NammaShaale parent  (and Nalini Jayaram from ‘The Valley school,’ Bangalore), NammaShaale played host to a family of pattachithra (cloth painting) artists from Naya gaon, Midnapore dist, West Bengal on Tuesday, the 24th Feb 2009.

I should also plug-in the fact that NammaShaale has always been receptive to hosting multivarious ideas, events and thoughts in its precincts  – as long as there are benefits that would accrue to the child’s development, of course subject to the school’s  crowded calendar of events. It is also gratifying to note that a few parents consistently pitch in to enhance the level of pedagogical discourse and otherwise; wish there were more such kindred souls, that are genuinely interested in  positive interventions – while having an unfaltering focus on the child  and its needs.

The pattachitra art form roughly dates back to more than 1600 years and has been nurtured around the rituals/activities of Jagannath Temple of Puri, Orissa. Now apparently it has enhanced its rather fragile base to the southern districts of West Bengal, a good thing. It is heartening to note that only vegetable dyes are used and continue to be used. But am not sure how these colours are made to ‘fast’ – gotta find out. That’s a note to myself.

Looks (and feels so nice), but I would call it Unclear Fishion. Sorry for the gory humour.

Looks (and feels so nice); the story for which this painting forms a backdrop iw about a marriage between two fish and so on; please remember that the stories were targetted primarily at children.

The father (Sri Khandu Chitrakar), son (Sri Prabir Chitrakar) and daughter (Kumari Rani Chitrakar) trio spent the day with the children, explained the context of their paintings, displayed lots of their lovely work, talked about how they make the paintings and gave us several performances with their work. A fascinating day.

 Depicts a tribal custom of getting inebriated, post someone's death

Depicts a tribal custom of getting inebriated, post someone's death

Khandu Chitrakar explained that they first come up with a story. The story is then illustrated with a scroll painting. They then create songs to sing the story as they narrate the story with the scrolls. I think it is very good packaging of the art form.

Apparently the form is continuosly under threat, with children of artisans not evincing any interest (what is good and what is not good Phaedrus, need some one tell us… I recollect a Satyajit Ray film in which (Siddhartha and the City?) the protaganist appears for a job Interview and is asked ‘when did we get Independence?’   – he responds asking ‘Whose?’)  in the ancestral skills, TV taking over the evenings of the target populations, migration of skilled artisans to the cities and to other vocations that will get them some money/food at least etc.

As a nation I think we have very little respect for history and traditions and thanks more to Sri Macaulay, what little we know is not even half baked and to top it all, we feel inferior, apologetic and guilty about history. Dharampal may set one free?

… But Sri Khandu Chitrakar has been trying all innovative methods to revitalize this tradition – seems he has done a painting and story themed around AIDS, paintings/stories around the WTC bombing (how I hate the simplistic token 9/11!), creating new storylines around paintings, not necessariy around religious themes, participating in exhibitions (apparently Jayashree spotted this itinerant pattachitra group in Chitrakala Parishad, Bangalore – and the rest is herstory!). Sri Khandu Chitrakar’s daughter has won quite a few awards from the West Bengal Govt, we were told.

… Of course, the NammaShaale children enjoyed the whole ambience of paintings and stories – and got to see many of the interesting steps involved in creating pattachitra, which were patiently explained by Sri Khandu Chitrakar; it is not often times that one gets to listen to master craftsmen. Some of us  ‘adults’ were bowled over by the simplicity and effectiveness of the medium of overlaying a compelling narrative over a piece of art. We also acquired a few paintings from these good folks; the two found in this blog entry are only a representative sample. (in case if other parents/adults who bought these paintings could send a scan or two, I would also include them, please!)

His contact details are furnished hereunder:

Jorano Pot Silpa, C/o Khandu Chitrakar, Village and PO Naya P.S,  Pingla, Disttrict Paschim Midnipur, West Bengal – 721 140. Residence Phone no: (03222) 217 830.

(there are a few mobile nos but I dunno what the ‘roaming charges’ will translate to for these itinerant folks. So they are not on the blog. If someone wants them, they know who to ask)

We fervently wish that Chitrakars emerge successful thru the struggle. We hope their passion and support from cognoscenti will see them through…

A reasonably comprehensive info about patachitra is  available off this Crafts Council of India page.

This news item appears, thanks to significant inputs from Sowmya Arunajatesan, a NammaShaale parent.

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  • Jayashree Janardhan  On March 17, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Thanks Ramjee/Sowmya for the blog. Incidentally, Nalini Jayaram is the one who spotted them at Chitrakala Parishad. She very generously followed up and informed both Namma Shaale (through me) and Prakriya – both schools could participate in this. What a treat! We owe a big thank you to Nalini’s tireless service to give traditional arts and artisans their due.

  • Ramjee Swaminathan  On March 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Oh! 🙂

    There are so many ‘small’ schools in Bangalore, each with its own advantages and flipsides – but most of them exist and continue to thrive, because of the passion of their founders about children and education; the ideas could be different, the implementations could be different, but it is their abiding interest in the holistic development of the child that would unite them.

    It would be lovely, if there is some symbiotic cooperation that would ensure that each such school feeds off the advantages of the others and contributes its juices too, to the pool – that would be great.

    I know am preaching to the choir, but then…

  • Uma Naren  On November 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Hi Ramjee,

    I’ve been trying to contact Namma Shaale. The school doesn’t have a dedicated website I suppose. Would you be kind enough to pass on contact info like a telephone number or email id??


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