Colours, Clay and Drum Beats
The drum beats of the Karnataka dancers still reverberates in my ears as they pranced from side to side, beating their huge drums in unison, even while yelling out calls from the depths of their heaving bellies. The Bihu dancers from Assam danced with just as much zest, cymbals clanking, singing to the rhythmic hand movement of the Assamese girl in her red and cream sari. Loads of cultural events are probably what symbolized the 10 days Kala Madhyam Arts Mela 2008, concluded on 14th December 08 at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.
The sprawling grounds, better known for the Fine Arts College was home to artisans from across the country. My research over two evenings, introduced me to artisans from Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Ladhak, Manipur, Nagaland, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and from a few other States I may have forgotten to note. Seemingly, there were something like 100 stalls there.
From what their brochure says Kala Madhyam is an organization based on Nandidurga Road and has been organizing this Arts Mela since 2000. To know more about them you can visit http://www.kalamadhyam.org
An assembly of colour, jewelry, paintings, clay and all sorts of metal, the Kala Madhyam Arts Mela 2008 was a miniscule symbol of a rich diverse country’s attempt to preserve its heritage and search for alternatives in this increasingly globalizing and homogenized world.
With 14th December being the last day the place was thronged with people of all ages, young girls especially interested in the load of beautiful jewelry couldn’t help but lap it all up and I saw quiet a few of them driving a hard bargain for earring, glass necklaces, juthies, girdles and bangles. The hair braider even with his exorbitant price of Rs 50 a braid didn’t seem to have clients in short supply.
I was especially enamored by the beautiful bamboo candles from Nagaland and the once temple murals of Kerala that were now being replicated on treated bamboo. Interestingly Sujith of Bhavans, the art gallery in Kerala, was keen on coming to any place that was willing to host a workshop and teach people who were interested in learning to paint these intricate gods and goddesses. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org /and phone: 09446085654.
The apricot jam being sold by a polite couple from Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) caught my fancy and I couldn’t move past without a large bottle. From the brochure I picked up from the couple, the LEDeG is involved in agriculture and horticulture, handicrafts and other areas of intervention, to know more about them visit www.ledeg.org
Kumbham is an initiative in pottery, and had for sale both esthetic show pieces and household cooking utensils. Tastefully and professional done, the household articles are especially worth investing in, if one is health conscious. Looking at the heavy terracotta orange pots and pans it immediately brought to mind the cooking vessels my mother and thousand of other women in Goa use for their everyday cooking. Food containing tamarind and vinegar, instead of eating into the aluminum vessels and endangering our health are preserved, and take on a delicious taste in this earth ware. You can contact Kumbham at www.kumbham.in
With the motto of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle was Gypsy Soul and their large variety of handmade paper, they can be contacted at email@example.com and 9845674417
I think what stood out as the underlying theme of the event was that all the products were natural and eco-friendly and the stalls sold themselves as businesses run in an ethical manner. The costs of most products were reasonable even though the artisans had traveled thousands of kilometers and had to also factor in the cost of food and housing for the 10 days at the Mela.
In a time when people’s movements are searching for alternatives and trying to mainstream them into civil society. Where the politics of fair trade are being discussed and enlarged and a serious attempt is being made to reduce ones ecological footprint, I think the Kala Madhyam Arts Mela brings a strong sense of hope.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile for both Kala Madhyam and the Government of Karnataka that co-funded this event to actually envisage a permanent event along the lines on the Delli Haat, so that people in Bangalore appreciate the vast diversity of this country and also get an opportunity to familiarize themselves with its food and culture.
All Pictures by Jasmine Nongrum