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Updated: April 11, 2014 19:51 IST

Bonds with tradition

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The Craft Council of India presented awards to craftsmen on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee

The Craft Council of India’s Golden Jubilee awards function celebrated 50 years of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s vision who, by her path-breaking methods, transformed the Indian consciousness to embrace craft in a rich nuanced way. Chairperson Vijaya Rajan and honorary president Kasturi Gupta Menon, speakers at the occasion brought out the need to perfect and enhance Indian tradition’s transcendence to modernity.

On April 3rd 2014, the Kamala awards given to date reached a total count of 60. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, chairman of Kalakshetra Foundation presented the Kamala Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship to Mutham Perumal from Kanyakumari district for his manikkamalai and the Kamala Award for Contribution to Craft to Gauriben Ramabhai Bhraman from Gujarat as a senior craftsperson engaged in development and training, the Shanta Prasad Award for Excellence in Craft to Abdul Jabbar Khatri from Bhuj for his work in tie-and-dye and the prestigious Kamala Samman Award to M.P Ranjan and Aditi Ranjan from Ahmedabad for their book Handmade in India.

Even as he accepted his garland humbly, we were reminded that Mutham Perumal’s own manikkamalai stays fragrant for two to three days. His is the only family still practising this craft, weaving rows of aralis in a unique way, petals clustered to give the appearance of rubies interspersed with emerald nochi leaves. A frank exuberance, a ready-to-do willingness and flair to market an idea without pomp and show was seen in these awardees. An almost effortless creative spirit holds hands with their capacity for hard work. Gauri Ben’s story began in the village of Bakutra in Gujarat. At the age of 13 she was married. There was no drinking water supply, poor income generation and agriculture was waning. The villagers moved from place to place to eke out an existence. Then, Self-Employed Women’s Association approached to aid their living. When Gauri Ben opened her basket and showed them her embroidery, SEWA turned this into her livelihood. Gauri Ben went on to motivate groups and teach embroidery to 5,000 women including in other countries Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Abdul Jabbar Khatri, 35, comes from a community of traditional dyers in Bhuj. His great-grandfather stopped practising the art but Abdul and his brother revived interest. Abdul said that he began working at the age of 11, dyeing for friends and families in his spare time. In 2001 National Institute of Design invited him to a workshop. In 2004 he worked with khadi-lover Christian Kim’s studio Dosa in Los Angeles. In 2007, he took part in the first design collective for Mishra and Firdos. In his workshop, he engaged four persons for dyeing and 200 ladies for tying, using the technique of pinch and dye. With his non-conformist approach to colour and pattern, Khatri has tied the knot with contemporary design.

Handmade in India was applauded as a labour of love to the cause of the Indian artisan. This vast compendium of handicrafts comes with a hefty credit list. By its very process of making, the book achieved a remarkable feat — it engaged hundreds of contributors and researchers in craft. Many field researchers under Ranjan and Aditi’s directive visited the interiors of villages to consciously document craft. A wide range emerged from chain-stitch embroidery, wood turned toys to cast bronze idols revealing how artisans could create beautiful objects by techniques passed on from generation to generation, without any other formal training or education. The retrospective exhibition of CCI was inaugurated by Tara Gandhi. Gopal Krishna Gandhi summed up our bonds with tradition in his address, “The CCI is half a century old…the crafts of India are a millennium old, (the CCI is) an infant in the arms of tradition both ancient and immortal.”

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