From Kumartuli to China: unveiling the art of idol-making

China Pal from Kolkata will exhibit her work in Kunming

May 18, 2018 10:39 pm | Updated May 19, 2018 12:16 am IST

China Pal, one of the first women Durga Puja idol makers of Kumartuli, will be participating in the China-South/ Southeast Asian Art Week at Kunming in the Yunnan province in south China, from June 13-20. The 52-year-old idol maker will be exhibiting her work and demonstrating how soft clay is transformed into deities.

First visit abroad

Speaking to The Hindu on Friday, Ms. Pal said this is her first overseas visit. “I started making idols in 1994, after my father passed away. I make about 30 Durga Puja idols every season,” said Ms. Pal.

Ma Zhanwu, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata, confirmed that “one lady from Kumartuli” had agreed to participate in the Art Week.

Speaking at an event organised by the Kolkata-based Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Zhanwu said that the purpose of having an from Kumartuli, north Kolkata’s idol-making hub, visit China was to “introduce the idol-making industry and also enable Chinese people to know Durga Puja.” He added that “cultural and spiritual exchanges between the two countries” will pave the way for better relations.

Kumartuli is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city. It was dominated by male artisans till women like China Pal broke the stereotype and took up the profession practised by their fathers and grandfathers. She has turned out to be an inspiration for other women taking up idol-making as a means of livelihood.

Along with Ms. Pal, well-known terracotta artist Ashis Kumar Biswas will also be participating in the Art Week, a part of the 5th China South Asian Expo.

Showcase and sell

“The visit provides us with the opportunity to not only to showcase our products but also to sell them. We can collaborate with artists from South Asia and also learn their craft,” Mr. Biswas said.

The visit by the two artists will coincide with the first visit by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to China, scheduled for the third week of June.

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