Samarpana’s initiatives for folk arts and artistes

Conversations, performances and workshops — social media accounts of arts organisations are buzzing with activity. However, popular classical art forms have occupied centre stage in the digital medium too, while folk forms remain in the shadows. Samarpana for Arts and Wellbeing has taken several initiatives to not only turn the focus on folk arts, but has been extending support to these artistes through timely fundraisers. .

Folk art is not just a window to local cultures and traditions but they represent the heart of communities. “They need to be promoted and preserved,” says Gayathri Suryanarayanan, founder, Samarpana. As she points out, folk artistes typically depend on the income earned during the Tamil festive months of March to July. Most of them take up their hereditary art forms at a very young age, which is often the main family source of income. Most of them are also school dropouts. This means they are seldom equipped to pursue alternate jobs.

With their livelihoods hit hard by the lockdown, Samarpana decided to take up the cause of these artistes. The ‘Art Heals’ campaign is one such programme that brought together over 150 classical musicians and dancers to raise funds. Samarpana then launched the 100 for1000 campaign in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, where people donate a minimum of Rs.100 that goes towards welfare packages for thousands of folk artistes.

“Joining hands with the Ministry gave us an opportunity to interact with artistes from across the country. They were delighted about the opportunity to perform and also the remuneration. Our Lok Kala series (June 8 to July 8) featured over 30 folk forms. We reached out to obscure artist communities,” says Gayathri.

The pandemic has brought to light the deep fault lines in the art world and the need for a change in how we approach this domain. “Tamil Nadu itself is home to over three lakh folk artistes. Not even 10 per cent of them have benefited from the State Government relief funds,” says Gayathri. This is as bad as the plight of the families of deceased artistes, who endure a lifetime without any benefits. “In fact,” says Gayathri, “while volunteering we found that starvation and debt had driven two artistes to suicide.” .

The pandemic has allowed Samarpana to work closely with these communities. “In some cases, we have adopted the families. We plan to introduce them to cottage industry activities so that they can supplement their earnings.”

Besides the obvious financial instability and uncertainty, the pandemic has affected the fraternity emotionally as well. “We have started Maithri to focus on the emotional well-being of artistes. We have a team of psychologists, nutritionists and yoga instructors working on this,” says Gayathri.

Maithri is a free initiative for folk artistes and artistes from economically backward backgrounds, while other artistes can get the service at a subsidised price. “sms MAITHRI in your preferred language to 94450 22150 and we are here to listen and talk,” she adds.

Samarpana’s social media platform now serves as a repository of performances and conversations, becoming essentially a digital archive. Going digital means that all this rich material will have a wider reach and greater inclusiveness.

It also becomes a platform where artistes come forward to help their own community and participate actively towards the archiving of their traditions and practices.

To contribute to 100For1000, send donations (a minimum of Rs.100) via GPay to 9884458008 or via

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 2:15:21 PM |

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