In West Bengal a much bigger challenge for art lovers is to hunt for regions where actual well-crafted handicrafts are practicing art or the reflections of the artisans’ lives. Earlier most artisans of rural Bengal used to survive on their artistic produce which usually were consumed by the local markets. But nowadays it’s difficult for people to find jewelleries made of pure Zinc (availability?) or authentic sarees made by various tribes in their own, distinctive styles or original patachitra from Bengal.
If one can ask what is common between the Amazonian rain forests and several art and crafts of Bengal? The answer is the same, both are dying.
As a member of the West Bengal Commission for Women, I have the opportunity to visit 23 districts of rural Bengal. During one such visit at Jhargram district I met some tribal women who are jobless, and are tortured by alcoholic jobless husbands. I had a detailed discussion with them and finally found out most of them grew up watching their family weave Santhali sarees at festivals and celebrations. These Santhali sarees are known as Santhali Panchi Saree. Nowadays Jhargram’s saree shops are full with synthetic Zari sarees and people are not even aware of their weaving tradition.
I wanted to push the boundaries and do something more. I went to the saree shops and frantically searched for the traditional one, finally one saree seller came and handed me a colorful, neatly weaved cotton saree.
I want to take an attempt to promote and spread awareness among the urban populace about the rich textile heritage of Jhargram.
Today, the time has come to revive some lost forms of art where women are involved. This practice will empower a woman to live with her own identity and dignity and will give her economic freedom and recognition by the society.
The world, in which we reside in today, has become an infinite arena for increasing technology and massive urbanization. All the nations and countries have entered into the rat race of establishing ‘developed’ and ‘technological’ towns and cities, the words often being misinterpreted or misleading. The fact that poses a question in front of us, is whether these developments have been a strayed and whether these concrete giants have been able to successfully throw away our cultural heritage into an abyss, from which reestablishment seems a difficult task.
I realized something needs to be done soon and from that motivation the idea of Ahana came to my mind.
My priority was to create a path for those women who are in an extremely vulnerable situation. Being a true artist they can practice their art of weaving and find out the market for their products. I don’t want to run a business. My attempt is to revive these art forms which will directly empower those women financially.
Ahana will cater to influence and pamper those women of West Bengal making it rather an expedition through Bengal of olden days. The foresight of this non-profit organisation shall be mass empowerment of women artisans who are struggling for dignified livelihood and goes with esteemed legacy in their respective crafts.