With over a 100 stalls, Craft Bazaar 2012 in Coimbatore showcases handloom and handicrafts from across India

Once upon a time, there lived a girl called Mina. Her father was an artist. Mina was playing in the courtyard one morning when a gentleman approached her parents and explained the importance of sending their child to school. Mina’s parents were convinced and she was sent to school. The little girl studied well; she went to London and held an exhibition of her father’s works. But she wanted to do more — she came back to India, gathered women artisans in her village and set up a unit that specialised in the traditional art form she learned from her father.

Rajasthan-based Kawad artist Dwarika Prasad Jangid narrates this story using the Kawad, a miniature wooden temple with panels and doors done up with intricate paintings. The artist narrates a story using the series of paintings — the story unfolds as he opens door after door. Dwarika’s guru is his father Mohanlal.

Women power

Artisans such as Dwarika make Craft Bazaar 2012 special. Organised by the Crafts Council of Tamil Nadu, the exhibition showcases the works of craftspeople from across the country. At every stall is a story. Every story speaks of traditions passed down generations.

Amrita Chaudhary’s stall of bandhini saris and fabrics is a result of the hard-work of 80 Rajasthani women who are experts in the tie-and-dye technique. Most of them landless and without a regular income, the women now make a decent living. Mahesh’s stall has necklaces and anklets made by Rajasthani women. “We have 15 women working for us,” he says.

Be it hand-worked fabrics, saris or handmade jewellery, it is women who contribute the most in skill and labour, one observes. Dr. Milan Kanna, for instance, trains and employs girls from low-income groups in Lucknow in chikan work. A women’s group from Marthandam embroiders elegant lace home furnishings from home. Manjusha Sathish and Aakhila Ismail specialise in terracotta and clay jewellery, respectively. Swapna makes paper-earrings and hairclips. Handicrafts produced by these women find pride of place at the exhibition.

The artisan’s magic

Sea shells, bamboo, bottle gourd, grass…each of them has turned into flowers, containers, lamp-shades, mats, and more in the hands of an artisan. “The colours for this painting are from the aparajita flower (sangu poo), orange peel, rice flour and turmeric,” explains Naveen Kumar, pointing to a Madhubani painting. Right next door is Sujit from Kerala with beautiful murals.

Then there are the silks, kurtis, footwear, metal artefacts, bags and more. But what makes Craft Bazaar interesting are the little things one wouldn’t find elsewhere. Where else can you find mythical leather puppets and finger puppets? Or earrings made of a hundred tiny beads by a woman in far-off Rajasthan?

Craft Bazaar is on till June 27 at Ramakrishna Kalyana Mandapam, Avarampalayam. Entry is free. The exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.