Pintu, a teenager from Murshidabad is surprised to hear it from Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore that he wanted to introduce Raibenshe, a genre of folk martial dance, at Santinketan, while Tito, a boy from Kolkata is amazed that behind the Chhau masks, there are real people dancing.
These are excerpts from graphic novels published by the West Bengal government, the UNESCO and Banglanatk.com for promotion of traditional crafts of West Bengal. In a unique initiative, three such graphic novels have been published on three different art forms of the State, both in Bengali and English in 2018.
The graphic story on the Purulia’s famous Chhau dance is called Experiencing Chhau ( Dekhe Elam Chhau ) while the book on Raibenshe, folk martial dance form south Bengal is called Raibenshe Rocks ( Ajo Aache Raibenshe) . The third publication is on the little known puppetry from Nadia titled The tale of a lost leg ( Harano Payer Kissa).
“These graphic novels are part of our efforts to promote cultural industries in different parts of the State under the project Rural Crafts & Cultural Hubs, which is supported by Department of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and UNESCO,” said Ananya Bhattacharya, director of Banglanatak.com, a social enterprise working with artisans across different States of the country.
Ms. Bhattacharya said that the idea behind the publication is to engage young minds so that they become aware about folk tradition of the State.
“These graphic stories or short novels, whatever you call them, are not more than 50 pages and are designed with lots of colourful sketches to engage young readers. While the characters are fictional, it has been our effort to pack as much information about the folk art forms as possible in these stories,” Ranjan Sen, author of these publications said.
These stories also provide a glimpse of efforts taken up to revive these dying folk art form. Mr Sen said, adding that such initiative to encourage awareness about folk art has not been taken anywhere in the country.
These graphic novels are being distributed to children through school outreach programmes and at different fairs and festival.
There are plans to publish more of such graphic novels and one publication on Baul singers of the State is in the offing. Mr. Bhattacharya said that under the Rural Crafts & Cultural Hub initiative, work is going on 15 different crafts of the State and similar publications engaging young minds will be brought on most of these art forms.