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By supporting its artisans, the Madhubani district has given others a template to build on

Just imagine the domino effect if all state governments decide to beautify their town and cities with local art: It will not just give our cities and towns a facelift (which many desperately need) and revive dying art traditions, but also provide a steady source of income to artisans.

editorials Updated: Dec 25, 2017 17:47 IST
Madhubani paintings at the Bihar pavilion, India International Trade Fair , 2013 (HT)

Imagine this: You get off a train at a small district HQ, expecting a grimy and over-populated little town but are pleasantly surprised by walls covered with bright and colourful local art. This is what you will encounter at Madhubani in Bihar, thanks to the district administration, which has decided to paint about 50-odd government buildings in the natural and acrylic colours of the traditional painting style that takes the town’s name. The administration was inspired by the Eastern Central Railway, which recently got local artisans to beautify the town’s railway station with local artwork. The administration also plans to request citizens to adorn their home walls with the paintings and is also encouraging villagers of Jitwarpur, where most Madhubani artists come from, to display their paintings outside their homes.

Despite having a rich and diverse tradition of handicrafts and artwork in the country, the men and women behind such beautiful pieces of work don’t always get their due. In fact, very few states publicly display their traditional, eco-friendly art heritage. Instead, they can be accessed by only those who visit the state emporia or craft fairs. Worse, few artisans have access to markets or get institutional support. As a result, many of them are being forced to give up their vocations and seek more plebian ones. Many traditional art-forms are at risk of dying out altogether. The world over, however, handicraft products command a premium over machine-made, mass-produced goods.

The Madhubani district collector’s decision is worth emulating. Just imagine the domino effect if all state governments decide to beautify their town and cities with local art: It will not just give our cities and towns a facelift (which many desperately need) and revive dying art traditions, but also provide a steady source of income to artisans. Even better, it can create jobs -- something crucial for a country struggling to give employment to its citizens. Artisans and musicians have always received support from the rulers and latter-day modern governments.

There is no reason why that tradition should not continue and be expanded.

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First Published: Dec 25, 2017 17:47 IST