History & Culture

Website aims to revive traditional storytelling methods

Emily Chakraborty with her story telling collection

Emily Chakraborty with her story telling collection   | Photo Credit: G.P. Sampath Kumar

Emily Chakraborthy sheds light on dying art forms in India through Kaisori

This festive season is all about celebrating the triumph of good over evil. Somewhere between this tale being passed by word of mouth and entering the realm of common knowledge, our forefathers used the medium of puppets, storyboards and scrolls to aid in the narration.

During her travels, Emily Chakraborty, an entrepreneur for traditional Indian art forms discovered the hamlet of Bassi in Chittorgarh. This town was the home of the wooden toymakers of Rajasthan, the ones whose dexterous craftsmanship delighted scores of Indian children until the age of plastic dawned.

Emily Chakraborty's Story telling collection

Emily Chakraborty's Story telling collection   | Photo Credit: G.P. Sampath Kumar

“Today, there are only four or five families who still fashion wooden toys. It was there I discovered kavad, a storytelling box which depicts a story as it opens up,” says Emily.

“In the beginning, these boxes would tell the tales of Pabuji, the patron saint of camel herders. Over a period of time, people began incorporating incidents from the Ramayana and Mahabharata into these boxes. Painted completely by hand, these boxes could range in size from about a foot to 10-15 feet in height. Sadly, only two households make kavads in all of India. and we work with them.

“There is another storytelling tradition in Rajasthan called phad. It is primarily an illustrated scroll which you open up, tell a story and roll back up again. Like the kavad, a phad would narrate tales from the epics and of Pabuji. As of now, only two families still design these scrolls,” she says.

Thanks to a childhood spent travelling, Emily grew up with an appreciation for all things handmade and homespun, eventually making it a part of her lifestyle. “Travelling has an impact on how you live your life. I realized everything quintessentially Indian has an interesting story, inspired by cultural communities in that region and it extends to different facets of life.”

Emily Chakraborthy and Kaisori products

Emily Chakraborthy and Kaisori products   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

“I would source almost everything I used directly from the craftsmen; from masalas and soaps to fabrics and accessories,” says Emily.

A chance retort by an artisan asking her to do something with the know-how she had acquired over the years, spurred her into starting Kaisori.

‘Kai’ means hand in most South Indian languages and ‘Kaisori’ or Kishori was the name of an innocent girl before she became the Goddess Durga, says Emily. “Durga has many strengths and craft requires one to be dexterous. We also empower women, so this name with manifold meanings was perfect for my enterprise,” she adds.

Today, using the personal network she has built up over the years, Emily works with over 400 artisans through the year to create products like clothes, home linen, décor and more for Kaisori.

Kaisori not only supports art forms, but also creates an interdependent eco-system between artisans.

Emily Chakraborthy and Kaisori products.

Emily Chakraborthy and Kaisori products.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

“The packaging for the soaps from our Kashmiri wellness range are reproductions of Bundi miniatures and a small panel on the side has details about the paintings,” she says, “I believe stories are far more important than the product. It is necessary for a buyer to make an informed decision about their choice.”

Kaisori products are available online and at stores. Visit kaisori.com for more details.

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 12:40:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/emily-chakraborthy-sheds-light-on-traditional-storytelling-methods/article29768880.ece

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