Drawing inspiration from craftspeople of India

Dastkari Haat Samiti president Jaya Jaitly says the year 2020 affected craftspersons in ways that helped them rethink their art

Updated - March 11, 2023 04:44 pm IST

Published - March 11, 2023 12:13 pm IST

Jaya Jaitly

Jaya Jaitly | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

No matter how fancy a mall is, it can never match up to the energy of an Indian bazaar. The human engagement, the hustle bustle the aroma of street food, the colourful crafts and discussions with craftsmen, are all unique to crafts bazaars, says Dastkari Haat Samiti president Jaya Jaitly. 

The octogenarian who was at Hyderabad Dastkari Haat Samiti’s exhibition recently says once the lockdown was lifted, the buying and selling has gone up several notches. According to her, increased buying does not mean people are beginning to appreciate Indian crafts more. “It simply shows that Indians are bored of being stuck in a place with little or no human interaction. Since craftspeople also had a lot to sell, it was a win-win for the buyer and seller.” 

According to her, the craftsmen look forward to these bazaars/melas in different cities to meet customers who enjoy being amidst arts, appreciate the work in all honesty and do not haggle. She adds that the zero sales during the lockdown did not make them lose hope or give up. Discussing the good side, she says, “Many of them got engaged in community services, returned to their fields, grew vegetables and helped each other.”

Hyderabad-based craftsman, Gajjam Govardhan, used excess leftover material to make masks and distributed them to the police department, Jaya said. “In Bengal, a person working in batik made masks and distributed them to bank and railway employees. It brought out a beautiful side of this community. Artists also used the break from constant selling mode to rethink their art and purpose.” 

Holding out a bunch of paintings as postcards/ bookmarks, Jaya points at a painting of a scene depicting Krishna and Gopikas in Vrindavan. “They are all wearing masks. In another picture, one can see Lord Krishna flying around with a sanitiser spray. The year 2020 will go down in history and with it, the artist’s depiction of COVID-19 as well. The break (due to the lockdowns) made them draw inspiration from all around. They were otherwise perpetually drawing Ramayana and Mahabharata; how many epics can one buy? All the craftsmen show resilience through creativity, which is a wonderful thing.” 

Known for her involvement in promoting crafts, Jaya however does not like to be considered an inspiration or a patron of art. “I feel that is very high and mighty, and stupid. My inspiration is the craftspeople and the quality of their skill. So if anyone comes to me for inspiration I ask them to go to the craftsmen and understand their craft and hard work.”

In the energy and work of the craftsmen lies the secret of Jaya Jailty’s indefatigable energy.

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