‘There are melas and there are melas‘, says Ashok Vyas of the Grameen Art Blue Pottery Society, Rajasthan. Vyas is a blue pottery craftsperson who hails from Kotjewar, around 40 km from Jaipur and has been associated with the Kala Madhyam Mela since its inception in 2001.
According to him, though cities like Bengaluru are today typically saturated with numerous crafts fairs right through the year, there are only a few that offer a truly meaningful platform to showcase the craft and the craftspersons. And he counts the Kala Madhyam Mela as one of these.
The Kala Madhyam Mela was initiated by Kala Madhyam on a small scale in 2001 and has grown over the years to be an annual affair and is now associated with the Bengaluru Habba. It offers a marketing platform for over 100 crafts and folk art stalls.
Mariam Thomas, Programme Director Kala Madhyam and her colleague Gangadhar try to ensure that none of the craftspersons who approach them even last minute vying for a stall at the mela (and there are many such!), are turned away. A key objective of the mela is to ensure that sales occurred directly from craftsperson to consumer, ensuring that the profits went straight to the artists and artisans.
This year, Mariam says the mela seeks to educate the visitors on the crafts through crafts demonstrations every evening. Also something new they have added this year is a stall by designers who work with craftspersons to bring out new products that showcase the talent and craft. They feel this would open up possibilities for designers to engage with different crafts while simultaneously preserving the craft and offering a marketing avenue.
And then there are other distinguishing aspects like the master craftsperson from Orissa who only attends the Kala Madhyam Mela with his fascinating kora cloth and related products.
Some of the craftspersons spoke about what brings them to the mela, year after year. Anwar Chitrakaar of Midnapore, West Bengal – a Kalighat/Chakshu artist says this art hase been passed on to his family from generations now and though there are a few families that are slowly moving away from the craft as it is not proving to be a viable livelihood option, he feels melas like this offer a great opportunity for direct sales. He is also aware of the power of the internet these days and feels something needs to be done to increase their virtual presence so that the message can spread.
Durga Bai, a Gond artiste comes from Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh. She has been engaged in this craft since her childhood as is typical of most traditional/folk art forms and her three children today also practice it, in their free time after school! She feels the mela brings them a good networking opportunity as many people seek them out by word of mouth and many others keep in touch with them for subsequent orders for murals in their residences or offices. As if to prove this, a couple visited the stall just as I was sitting with Durgabai and asked her if she remembered them from a fair in Bombay where they had bought a painting of hers and said it was much appreciated. They now came with a request for her to paint an old (heirloom) trunk, which she asked them to bring along and said she would complete by the end of the fair!
Visit the Kala Madhyam Mela
11th – 20th Dec 2009
Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Kumarakrupa Road,
10AM -8PM, Entry: FREE
Dont miss the crafts demonstrations and folk performances – 4.30 pm onwards everyday.
As Durga Bai puts it, ‘unless people visit the mela they will not know about the various crafts and art forms in our country. And unless they see it and know about it, they cannot truly appreciate and respect it. And only then will they choose to buy the products and help us earn a respectable livelihood”.
Make sure you do not lose this opportunity for true arts education-right here in the heart of Bangalore–and be sure that you will come back richer. ⊕