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Handicrafts and Art galore at "A hundred hands" exhibition

I have been into whirlwind of delightful time off lately! An Art and handicraft lover like me always gets spoilt for choices in city like Bombay that is known for its exuberant Art scene.

One notable exhibition I recently attended was organized by an NGO from Banglore, “A hundred hands”, a handmade collective, that provides  platform for handicraft artists and educate them in enhancing their products and encourage them understand contemporary styles and compete with global products. 

Indian handicrafts is a vast realm when it comes to writing about it. Millions of Indians still depend on indigenous modes of production, traditional skills and techniques to make a living based on handmade products. 

Traditional handicrafts are unique expressions of a culture or community through local craftsmanship and materials. With increased globalization however, products are becoming more and more commercialized and artisans find their products competing with goods from all over the world and that is precisely the reason, NGOs like "A hundred hands" play a major role in helping the artist carry forward legacy of their land and its culture, myth and religion in their art practices. 

Traditional arts define the true identity of a civilization. In India, handicraft and its artisans were highly regarded and duly rewarded until the outbreak of the 19th century industrializationUnfortunately, one of the challenges Indian handicraft industry faces today is that our markets do not recognize the true value of craft and this trend has led a large number of artisans move to urban centres in search of low, unskilled employment. While crafts received royal and aristocratic patronage during pre-Independence days, the sector presently carries the stigma of inferiority and backwardness and is viewed as decorative, peripheral and elitist despite being second largest source of employment!

"A hundred hands" collective is an initiative that provides boost to hundreds of artisans by building a network of artisans, empowering, encouraging and helping them sustain revival of their crafts without losing its ethos. 

Here are some snippets from the exhibition that showcased stunningly beautiful art with its complex, colourful, simple yet captivating raw charm and the immensely gifted artists who were such delight to meet with! 

Mithila artist, Shantidevi; unassuming, immensely gifted artist with shrewd business acumen and deep philosophical attitude towards life! I was deeply humbled by her simplicity, creativity, exuberant persona, utmost dedication and professionalism. Ask her to paint in any surrounding that has some trees and she will be happy to oblige as she can easily make vegetable dyes instantly! At Bhau Daji Lad Museum premises, she named a few trees around (I didn't know their names) and explained how colours can be obtained from them.


Ramjibhai, artist from Kutch was busy weaving “charpai” that takes about two days to complete. He laments change in peoples’ lifestyle that has made him change a few things with time. He rarely gets to weave a “khatlo” (a wooden bed woven with cotton ropes) the expertise he has carried forward through generations. 

Despite the language barrier, Banjaran Parubai (Laxmi) and I could connect through our common interest; handicraft. She hails from Sandur, Bellary district, Karnataka and is part of a trust, "Sandur Kushala kala Kendra".  I could not understand Lambani yet it was amazing and hilarious the way we could still communicate. Watching her engrossed in embroidery work is such a treat! In minutes, she transforms a piece of cloth into art with help of a simple needle and a few colourful threads/mirrors/beads.

Arati Bedekar, the Encaustic artist, was the surprise element for me in this exhibition! I had never seen this art form before. Encaustic painting is one of the world’s oldest art forms that dates back to Ancient Greece. Encaustic is a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in” (enkaustikos). Heat is used throughout the process, from melting the beeswax and varnish to fusing the layers of wax. Encaustic consists of natural bees wax and dammar resin (crystallized tree sap). The medium is melted and applied with a brush or any tool the artist wishes to create from. Each layer is then reheated to fuse it to the previous layer.

Pattachitra artists, painting on bamboo!

Colourful thread work on bangles.

Artist Mohammed Asim comes from family of Wire Sculptures and is known for exploring Sterling Silver using various techniques like; casting, weaving and soldering. 

Banana fibre is used in so many handicrafts from Kerala! Mixed with other organic fibres, the products have raw beauty and are aesthetically appealing to the contemporary tastes. 

"Sanjhi" work by an acclaimed artist Vijay Soni. Sanjhi is an intricate art of paper cutting  with help of plied scissors and blades, without any tracing or drawing. 

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