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Where Warli and Chittara meet

Photos: Sampath Kumar

Kalamadhyam: finding a market for tribal talent.

CRAFT MELAS and craft stores are a dime a dozen, but there is one little store that is really different — Kalamadhyam, a venture by Madhyam, an NGO. It displays handicrafts made by dalits and tribal people, the most suppressed sections of our society.

One finds here toys from Channapatna, Chittara art works from Shimoga (the prices range from Rs. 60 to 350), banana fibre bags from Hampi (Rs. 160-350), thread paintings from Andhra (beginning at Rs. 170), Warli paintings from Thane (Rs. 120 a sq. ft.), blue pottery, chappals, and jewellery from Rajasthan, Madhubani from Patna (Rs. 150 per sq. ft.), Harotta clay products, coir products from Orissa, and much more.


Each product has its own identity and history. For example, the origins of Warli paintings go all the way back to the Neolithic times (specifically, the rock paintings of Central India). This period was characterised by paintings mainly in white, with triangular figures of human beings and animals, on the walls of rock caves. It is said that Warlis are the propagators of a tradition which originated between 3000 and 2500 B.C.

Madhubani paintings, on the other hand, are considered a prayer and an accompaniment to meditation. Kayastha women work meticulously, covering their sheets of paper with the care of cartographers. The end products are exquisite. Krishna's life is a constant motif in these works. His rasaleela with gopikas in Brindavan is intricately executed.

Kalamadhyam activists travel all over the country, identify the people and their products, purchase a few sample works, and then sell them at market rates. "We do not take much commission. There are no middlemen, and the money directly goes to the tribal people who deserve it the most," says Abbas, a sales personnel at the store.This one-year-old shop is an effort at helping tribal people market their talent. "We are trying to ensure a sustainable income to artisans, thus empowering the weakest sections of society," says Muneera Sen, Director, Kalamadhyam, who is also trying to bring crafts to the mainstream of the shopping culture. The products are also available at FoodWorld outlets on M.G. Road and Cunningham Road and in Malleswaram and Cox Town. Kalamadhyam works without any Government funding. It is an attempt at celebrating the diversity of India and the culture of dalit and tribal voices. This effort is significant because it seeks to empower artisans at a time when they have been pushed to the brink, thanks to globalisation and liberalisation.

Kalamadhyam, on Clarke Road, can be contacted on 5497356/5997358/ e-mail: madhyamb@vsnl.com

INDULAL P.M.

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