Marvellous masterpieces

KANTHA STITCH. A craft that is synonymous with Bengal, it is the preserve of a minority Muslim community that migrated to Bengal generations ago and bestowed on the State a universal recognition for the unique embroidery.

The traditional Solapith work which carves out decorative pieces from the soft stem of a wildly growing plant in the marshy lands of Bengal and Assam. The unique tribal art of Dokra, creating intricate artefacts out of brass through metal casting that dates back to several centuries. Wood carving, cane and bamboo marvels!

They are all there in an exclusive exhibition of traditional handicrafts from Bengal at Ravindra Bharathi. Held under the banner of Karuja, an organisation committed to reviving the heritage crafts of Bengal, it showcases the masterly workmanship of craftpersons to the world outside.

For lovers of Kantha work, a time-consuming hand embroidery known for typical designs, the display has a wide range of collection in cotton, silk and tussar sarees and dress material. The relatively unknown Solapith work, with icons of gods and goddesses, dominated by icons of Durga are mesmerising.

The wood carving craft brings out the creativity and imagination of the artisan to the fore. Though the icons are drawn from mythology, what stands out is their artistic depiction. The decorative as well as utilitarian cane and bamboo artefacts catch the eye for their fine finish. Ranging from trays, lamp shades, ashtrays to hairclips, they are there in every conceivable form.

The Dokra, a primitive tribal craft involving different stages from moulding to finishing, stands out for depiction of daily life, flora and fauna in antique dull and glazed finish. The craft is said to be a rage here and abroad.

Says Karuja chairman Syed Md. Masi: Preserving culture and heritage is easier said than done. Any artform or craft handed down the generations needs patronisation for its survival. It is no different for traditional handicrafts of West Bengal.

``While the craftpersons win appreciation for their exquisite, timeless appeal of their creations, it is the middlemen who raked in the `moolah' in the domestic and foreign markets''.

Thus Karuja - a crafts family- born as a joint venture between the Burdwan Zilla Parishad and Burdwan Jute-Based Garments Cooperative Industrial Society, stepped in for getting the artisans their due. It organised different types of handicrafts in villages, convinced artists to upgrade their skill and designs and market their work through Karuja. The display, proving the relevance of traditional craft to the contemporary world, will be on till November 17.

By Melly Maitreyi M.L.

Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

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