‘Andhra Pradesh has a very rich culture, heritage’

Renowned art curator Rajeev Sethi pitches for a creative role for local population

Updated - October 08, 2015 05:48 am IST

Published - October 08, 2015 12:00 am IST - VIJAYAWADA:

Rajeev Sethi says heritage is like breathing.— Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Rajeev Sethi says heritage is like breathing.— Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Andhra Pradesh is a rich repository of heritage, and the current efforts of the government are aimed at exploring ways of positioning this vital sector in the emerging scenario, according to art curator Rajeev Sethi.

Mr. Sethi has been roped in by the government to lend his expertise in charting the cultural trajectory of the ‘Sunrise State’.

“There is this strange paradox here,” he observes. “The State may be economically poor, but it has a very rich culture. When we talk about modernisation, we must not forget there is a vast repository of heritage, and the sections associated with this legacy should be made stakeholders in the development of the new State.”

After participating in a series of CRDA meetings in Vijayawada, Mr. Sethi headed to Kondapalli, the village of traditional toy-makers, and Machilipatnam to see for himself the condition of artists and craftsmen there.

“I see some progress in the villages. Earlier, they had ‘kutcha’ houses. Today, everybody has pucca homes. But, the quality of life has to become much better. In many cases, traditional skills have been lost. There is an imminent threat of the country losing out to machine-made products. China is flooding our markets in the toy sector. We must help craftspeople create a brand, and efforts should be made to make consumers understand the difference between what is hand-made and what is machine-made,” he says.

On the need for preparing a seamless plan for the development of villages on par with cities, he says: “When we talk about craftsmen, we are referring to millions of skilled workers. While we look at an urban area, we mustn’t forget that not all rural area people can be pushed to cities.”

There is a need to raise awareness among people about the necessity to move from a ‘sunset’ scenario towards a ‘Sunrise’ State. It will give them a sense of identity and purpose...a sense of great pride.” He says there are several inspiring ideas for the capital city such as monuments, iconic getaways, cultural centres, museums and heritage parks. “They provide a soul to a city. There has to be a creative role for the local population,” he says.

Mr. Sethi is known internationally for his contributions to preserving and celebrating the sub-continent’s rich cultural heritage for more than 35 years through his work in design and architecture, exhibitions and festival and policies and programmes.

Talking about ways to bring contemporary relevance to traditional skills of vulnerable artisan communities and creative professional, he says people’s creative skills will have to provide the options.

“‘Make in Andhra’ should then become ‘Create in Andhra’...that is where the role of traditional knowledge system will grow,” he says.

On growing fears that the cultural heritage of Amaravati may get a quiet burial, he emphasises that the new capital will not be a clone of Singapore.

Heritage is like breathing; you can’t stop breathing when the air gets polluted, you have to clean the air.

Rajeev Sethi

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