Creative Pudukottai potter Ramaiya Thangaiyya dreams of a better future for terracotta artists like him.
Clad in a white shirt and a white dhotiand occasionally pausing to caress his thick moustache, Ramaiyya Thangaiyya, holding a near-perfect sand figurine of a bird in his hands, walks around the class surveying the work of his students. Thangaiyya, a potter from Mazhaiyur in Pudukottai district, is here in the city with his mentor, M. Rengasamy, to teach the art of making terracotta figures as part of SPICMACAY’s second International Convention.
“I believe that every child must learn at least one craft. Back home, youngsters are reluctant to take up this art, most of them unwilling to handle the sand mixture,” says Thangaiyya. A week-long workshop for SPICMACAY, therefore, helps to introduce the art form to craft-enthusiasts and is in keeping with his dream of every child learning a craft.
Thangaiyya feels that the handicraft sector in the State could do a lot better with some Government assistance. “The authorities do not let us collect sand in trucks. We are craftsmen. Shouldn’t we be given identification cards that could authorise us to collect sand? How do I make a terracotta figure without sand?” he asks. He also points out that there are no pension facilities for craftsmen like him. “At least Rengasamy and I get some visibility thanks to invitations from international conventions and our installations at the Crafts Museum in Delhi and Bhopal. Out of the 40-50 families in Mazhaiyur, five or six get visibility. The rest are languishing because they have no opportunities. Besides, we have no alternative source of income during the rainy season. We do not own lands to pursue farming and thus entirely depend on this art form for livelihood,” he explains.
Sure, the Government extends benefits but it is not easy to get them. “When we talk about facilities, be it pension or some kind of allowance, we are asked to produce birth certificates, which we do not have. We were all born in our homes and the births were not recorded,” explains Thangaiyya.
Institutions in Delhi, Thangaiyya says, have recognised his work and are willing to offer more opportunities but the protocol is for the State Government to forward applications to these institutions. “The Tamil Nadu Government should be more supportive to us so that we have work throughout the year,” he observes.
“We create things from Nature. With sand and water as raw material, we produce majestic figurines and utensils. The art survives if we are taken care of,” he says candidly rustic.