Showcase: Craft and calligraphy

Phad, Rajasthan - Devanagari - Prakash Joshi Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: 2mail_grdcv

The richness of Indian crafts and its many languages come together as a powerful idea in Akshara: Crafting Indian Scripts, a multi-faceted crafts project with an exhibition conceptualised by Jaya Jaitley, founder and president of Dastkari Haat Samiti, which has worked for the economic and social development of traditional craftspersons since 1986. The effort aims to reveal the knowledge and beauty embedded in India’s many scripts through the skill of fine craftsmen who are often unlettered. As a part of the project, the principles of calligraphy were shared with skilled craftspersons who were then encouraged to extend them to various regional scripts, as they fashioned a range of products.

“The idea of Akshara began with the knowledge that craftspeople are not widely literate and feel a lack of self-worth when the world around them is going the English-speaking and computer way,” says Jaya Jaitley. “Also, we have a great civilisational history involving scripts. We have 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects. But we do not respect and preserve them as an important part of our culture. Combining these two aspects I thought of exploring letters, scripts and calligraphy through the many wonderful skills of our craftspeople who are rooted in the vernacular culture.”

Treating the scripts as design entities gives “unlettered” craftsmen a wonderful way to establish their presence in contemporary India. The project also reinforces the great need for Saaksharta or literacy, a critical factor in India’s development story, with remarkable sensitivity.

Over 140 museum-worthy exhibits will be mounted at the Visual Arts Gallery. Three years in the making, the Akshara project involved 58 producer-groups, 13 languages and scripts and 15 craft, textile and art forms covering 16 states. The exhibition will be accompanied by a host of cultural presentations that strengthen its central theme. These include a film made by Kalpana Subramaniam showing the connection between calligraphy and dance. Six dancers explore movement with an emphasis on the abstract. The film, choreographed by Navtej Johar and Justin McCarthy, will be shown at the exhibition. An art book, written by Jaya Jaitley and Subrata Bhowmick, highlighting the use of Indian scripts on crafts in the past and cataloguing the exhibits of the Akshara exhibition will be published by Niyogi Books. Diverse musical forms and concerts will also be organised to underscore the cultural plurality suggested by the range of scripts and crafts.

Among the products are saris combining the artistic doodles and poems of Tagore handcrafted by a weaver and kantha embroiderer, papier-mâché art on kalamdaans, imitating newspapers, clocks, and wooden door handles with hidden messages like ‘welcome to the person who enters’. Also on display are stoles with calligraphy motifs, jewellery with letters, painted cupboards and screens, wall panels, and the last handwritten newspaper in the world, produced in Chennai.

Akshara: Crafting Indian Scripts

When: September 16-21

Where: India Habitat Centre, Delhi

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2021 9:41:12 AM |

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