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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2004

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Handcrafted elegance

Proceeds from the sale will go towards healthcare for children

— Photo: K. Gajendran

Paean to craftsmanship

A thing of beauty has no fear of time.

— Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya

IF THE delicate dhokra figurine bears a striking resemblance to Mohenjodaro's urbane dancing girl it is because of the thread of continuity which binds Indian craft processes to their origins giving them that incredible timeless flavour. Yet the face of Indian craft has been in a constant state of flux absorbing new arts, design motifs and textures. The entry of non-Governmental organisations has played a vital role in setting new directions for craft growth. One such NGO is the Sri Venkata Kala Society. Registered in Hyderabad, the NGO is a collective initiative of not-for-profit organisations, and producer cooperatives that has brought together bankers, government officials and artisans. The society's focus is the sustainability of arts and crafts and social empowerment of marginalised craftsmen. "Our fair trade principles ensure fair returns to producers, quality products at competitive prices to consumers and overcome exploitation by middlemen," says K. Hari Kishan, general secretary and an artisan himself.

Artistic endeavour

For the first time in Hyderabad, the society is organising an exhibition-cum-sale of crafts and utilitarian items. Mirror-worked and Kutch embroidery rule supreme in the cushion covers, bags and tops. For the ecologically sensitive there are beautiful jute bags sourced from Kolkata with exquisite Chinese embroidery. And if you are lucky you may see Ramdyal Patwa, a craftsman from Rajasthan, spinning his skeins of silk and beads to create jewellery that rivals pigeon's rubies and meenakari. There are stalls stocking the ubiquitous Jaipur ceramics, charming figurines made of white metal, terracotta and woven wall hangings. Kondapalli toys jostle for space with flora and fauna crafted out of shell. A palette of colours is mirrored in the strings of lapis lazuli, garnets, amethysts and other precious stones on show.

Says Shafeeq, the charming proprietor, who has brought in his jewellery from Kashmir, "Exhibitions give more publicity to artisans like us who are at the designing and assembling end."

Shanthi from Vijayawada could not concur more. Her stuffed toys are cute and make ideal gifts without the accompanying exorbitant prices. The metal ware has been so exquisitely crafted while hand painted saris with beadwork shimmer in the twilight. Most artisans hail from Hyderabad and there is an overflow of bangles, enamelled Bidri ware and joss sticks.

Utilitarian stuff

Not everything is for the dreamy art connoisseur. An open university from Maharashtra has utility items like garden tools and potato peelers. Tummy trimmers are coupled with acupressure mats, shower jets with fertilizer dispensers. Essential oils, leather accessories and floating lamps are available.

Charming coffee mugs, glazed pottery concepts and bead worked halter neck tops are found at one-third the prices offered at mega stores. For the discerning, there are Madhubani paintings, curtains and crochet bedspreads. Things cost as less as Rs. 30 for mehendi by the enterprising girl at the door to Rs. 2,500 for a mammoth metal horse.

On till the 31st of this month at the Lalitha Kala Thoranam, Public Gardens, between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. the exhibition is a reminder that it is chic to be ethnic.


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