Events

Hast Karigar Society’s exhibition in Chennai keeps tradition alive

He might not know the language, but Patachitra artist Akshaya Kumar Barik has travelled the finest streets of Milan and Sao Paulo to display his work. “I have visited many places in India and abroad. In fact, I have a show in Dubai this December,” says Akshaya, shyly.

Dressed in a red kurta, with a red tika and well-oiled hair, Akshaya is a Jagannath Puri temple area-bred artist. A skill that trickled down from his ancestors, Patachitra earned him the National Award (2011) and recognition by UNESCO. Both the certificates hang in the backdrop of his stall at Lalit Kala Akademi, where Hast Karigar Society has brought in artisans and craftsmen from across India under one roof, for the seventh edition of the exhibition, Impressions.

The show has around 10 National and State awardees specialising in Tussar and Kota weaving, Aakola, Ajrak and Sanghaner printing, etc., from small towns of Benaras, Bhagalpur, Chanderi, Maheswar, Phulia, Sambalpur, Phalodi, Machilipatnam, Srikakulam, Kota and Chilapata forests of West Bengal among others.

On the show’s opening day on Tuesday, groups of people halt at each stall to know more about the rare traditional art. Akshaya explains to one such excited group of youngsters about his art, “The drawings on palm leaves are all handmade, and narrate stories of Krishna and Radha, Dasavatharam, or Buddha’s enlightenment.” The works are eye-achingly intricate, a few microscopic lines and circles are only visible through a magnifying lens.

He talks about the strenuous process of etching on a dry palm leaf with a needle, spreading a coat of kajal over it, and then washing the leaf to let the pigment stay only on the etched portions, to create patterns. “We do it in broad daylight. Such intricate works are not possible in artificial light,” he says. A few take months together, and a few are priced at half a lakh.

No matter the price, Akshaya gets buyers, thanks to exhibitions such as these by Hast Karigar. The Hast Karigar Society creates a market that showcases Indian tradition and heritage to the public, and promotes the traditional skill of artisans and weavers, while encouraging them to be contemporary and economically relevant.

“As long as there is a market for their professions, the skill will not become extinct. So, they are encouraged to reinvent the traditional art to suit the times,” says Sarmistha Lahiri, secretary, Hast Karigar Society. “For example, K. Anjanappa from Andhra Pradesh, a State Awardee, has transformed what were once leather puppets, to classy table lamps and home decor. Similarly, Khatri Abdul Rahim Anwar from Gujarat, a National Awardee, has translated Ajrak Prints on stoles, dupattas and pallus of saris, and the art of Patachitra, which was restricted on palm leaves, is now available in bookmarks and invitations,” she says.

The exhibition consisting of around 40 participating artisans is on till September 28.


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 12:16:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/events/hast-karigar-societys-exhibition-in-chennai-keeps-tradition-alive/article7659179.ece

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