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Traditional crafts meet ancient Indian calligraphy in this travelling exhibition

Akshara, an exhibition that’s visiting Mumbai, displays 150 objects and features events revolving around Indian scripts

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Oct 08, 2015 18:23 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
One of Akshara’s artefact on display during their exhibition in Cairo, Egypt

In 2001, the Census of India pegged the number of languages spoken across the country at 122. In 2013, linguist Ganesh Devy, supervisor of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, released findings showing that there are more than 780 languages. The reason for the disparity in figures: the Census doesn’t factor in languages with less than 10,000 speakers but Devy’s survey also accounted for them.

“We are facing a language loss in the present time. The languages of people living on the social margins are not recognised. Even their children are studying other languages at school,” says Devy, estimating that 150 languages will be lost over the next 25 years.

Naresh Kumar, a bookbinder and stationery maker from Delhi has bound tabletop accessories in printed cloth with motifs of Kannada letters

The linguist cites instances of meeting children from the Siddi community in Gujarat (of African descent) who could barely describe basic colours in their mother tongue. “The Majhi community of Sikkim has just one person speaking the language. It will disappear with no one to pass on the language. In Maharashtra, students learn Marathi but indigenous languages like Warli are neglected,” shares Devy.

Devy is one of the speakers at Akshara — Crafting Indian Scripts, a travelling exhibition championing the conservation of languages and scripts. Organised by the Dastkari Haat Samiti, an association of craftspersons, Akshara has travelled to Delhi, Cairo and UNESCO in Paris since its inception in 2012. It is presently in Mumbai with a line-up that includes an exhibition of crafts, music concerts, theatre acts and workshops.

A workshop in 2011 in Delhi where skilled craftsmen explained the concept behind calligraphy and how it can be applied to various regional scripts

“I have tried to link traditional crafts with literacy through calligraphy in regional scripts. This makes craftsmen explore culture through language and develop artistic ways of communicating it,” says Jaya Jaitly, founder, Dastkari Haat Samiti. This process, believes Jaitly, encourages artisans to educate their children without giving up their inherited skills.

What to attend

What: Lecture-demonstration and Carnatic music recital by Sudha Raghuraman; Dhrupad recital by Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar

When: October 9, 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Where: Museum garden


What: Calligraphy and crafts workshop by craftsmen Rajeev Kumar and Qamar Dagar

When: October 10, 11am to 4.30pm

Where: Small seminar room


What: Conversation between contemporary artists Navjyot and Lavanya Mani with traditional artists Prakash Joshi and J Niranjan on their style of art

When: October 12, 3pm

Where: Small seminar room (main building)


Blank Page by Sunil Shanbag

What: Blank Page by Sunil Shanbag, which is a celebration of the spoken word through poetry, theatre, music and movement. Poems written in English, Hindi, Marathi and Kashmiri by poets are interpreted by performers

When: October 13 and 14, 6pm to 7pm

Where: Premchand Roychand Gallery


What: A talk on language, cultural expressions and identity by author Kiran Nagarkar, linguist Ganesh Devy, author Devdutt Pattanaik, poet Sachin Ketkar and author Sudha Gopalakrishnan

When: October 17, 11am to 1.30pm

Where: Main auditorium

All day events

* Crafts demonstrations and sale at Coomaraswamy Hall

* Film screening of Aksharakaram at Premchand Roychand Gallery

Akshara — Crafting Indian Scripts is ongoing, till October 18. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Fort .

Call 2284 4484

First Published: Oct 08, 2015 00:00 IST