5 DYING ARTS THAT CAN BE SAVED

5 Dying Art Forms That Can Be Saved

India’s rich cultural diversity has been a cause for national pride for centuries. But increasing modernization and a growing shift of the population away from rural areas in search of a sustainable livelihood has led to the unfortunate trend of the slow death of countless art forms across the nation. 

A lack of attention and resources have left these art forms on the edge of extinction. Art forms must be documented to capture the unique traditions and stories that are conveyed through art.

Here are 5 art forms that are disappearing before our eyes. 

  1. Puppetry

Puppetry is said to have been a part of Indian tradition for more than a thousand years. It is a remarkable feat that puppetry, a source of entertainment and storytelling for children and adults alike, has survived over centuries.

There are innumerable forms of puppetry but Kathputli of Rajasthani origin is the most popular. 

Puppetry is slowly losing the battle to television and cinema, with very few artists left who practise this art of traditional storytelling. 

  1. Dhokra craft 

An ancient folk art tradition, Dhokra craft objects are in high demand in both Indian and international markets. Despite the demand, Dhokra craftsmen find it increasingly difficult to continue their tradition. 

Crafts are created through a metal casting technique which has been unable to stand up to the competition set by machines. These days Dhokra artists, who are unable to earn money through their craft are finding it difficult to even find raw materials to make their crafts.

  1. Pattachitra 

Pattachitra is an ancient tradition in Orissa and West Bengal. Using vegetable and mineral-based paint, artists paint bright colours on cloth. Artists used to be commissioned by members of royalty in the olden days but now, the art form is fading. 

Artists who used to involve the whole family to make everything, paint, cloth and the art itself from scratch, are now unable to make a livelihood. 

  1. Sholapith craft 

Made from the Shola pant, this art form finds its origins in West Bengal. 

A part of the Shola plant is peeled off and left to dry in the sun, giving it a paper-like texture. 

Craftsmen known as Malakar spend months making ornaments and other handicrafts, which are usually sold during festivals. 

Some are also sold across the world. Unfortunately, Sholapith artisans are unable to make a livelihood in non-festival months. 

  1. Manjusha art 

Manjusha art form is believed to have originated in Bihar. It is a type of scroll painting that finds its origin in the Hindu festival of Bishari Pooja. 

Dating back to the 7th century, Manjusha art showcases a story through a series of artworks. 

The art form has been slowly dying for decades now, however, the Bihar government is making efforts to save it. 

How to save dying art forms

As a consumer, every individual has a buying capacity that can prove to be a powerful force in keeping dying art forms alive. 

Efforts by the government and NGOs are largely responsible for keeping countless art forms alive.  

Through strategic marketing, workshops for artists and helping them get an education, it is possible to keep ancient art traditions alive. 

Just take a look at Rogan painting tradition. A formerly dying art, it gained popularity when Abdulgafoor Khatri took up the ancient art and began selling it to big names in the countries, gaining praise and patronage from Narendra Modi to Amitabh Bachchan, with Modi even gifting one of Khatri’s work to Barack Obama. 

The subsequent fame led to nearly 200 people learning the art from him and some even taking it up full time. 

From being the only Rogan artist, Khatri is now joined by hundreds of people due to a renewed popularity. 

We need to save art forms from extinction because they are a reminder of centuries of tradition, values, beliefs and culture that shouldn’t be trapped only in museums, but rather should be celebrated across the nation.

We, at Dhayas Foundation, are working for the growth and upliftment of art forms such as the ones mentioned above by creating a global space for artists and artisans. 

NGOs have long played a crucial role in the revival and celebration of art forms. Dhayas Foundation hopes to continue this tradition by connecting artists to a larger audience by creating a marketplace that will help in economic upliftment and keep incredible art cultures and history alive.

WHY WE NEED ART?

Over the years, art and the humanities have been sidelined. And of course, along with the sidelining came hundreds of thousands expressing the need to incorporate art into our lives- in schools, colleges and other institutions.

But art is an essential part of human history so art along with incorporating art in our lives, it also needs to be emphasized and celebrated.

Art has been a medium of communication and expression from the very beginning of human civilization. From cave paintings to digital art, art has adapted and taken different forms over centuries. Art gives people space for creativity and imagination, and by doing so, helps keep the human spirit alive.

Witness the world from an artist’s perspective

When you look at any artwork, you are not just looking at a canvas with some paint splattered on it or a sculpture of a historical figure. In fact, you are looking at hours of toil and passion coming together to create a piece of work that allows you to look at the world in someone else’s shoes. Art has the power to evoke feelings of empathy.

Seeing the world in a whole new light is an enlightening experience which can inspire and motivate people to do great things.

Even the most analytical and practical minds would find their feelings evoked after seeing extraordinary art.

Archiving human experiences

History has been recorded in art- in paintings of victories and great losses in battles, fires and floods, birth and death, destruction and creation and even despair and hope. 

Art has helped create a narrative of history for the future generations to follow but history involves the good and the bad, and art reminds us not to repeat past mistakes. 

Propaganda art from fascist regimes are reminders of the influence that artwork has over the public psyche and the course of culture in general.

But the thing about art is that its interpretation can change over time. The propaganda art is now a reminder of the hate that our ancestors had to fight through, with the good side winning in the end, keeping the art relics in a museum to remind us not to fall into the dark side.

As the world erupts in protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movements, statues of oppressors are being removed to make way for progressive figures that can inspire generations to come.

Art is a medium of resistance 

From Anti-Nazi resistance to Anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, art has been used as a form of protest across generations.

Movements are sustained and eventually turned into victories with a lot of help from artworks and imagery. Artwork created in the face of oppression have become powerful symbols of resistance and standing up for what is right. The political side of a movement is not just empty words spoken loudly, in the end, it is art that stays in a person’s heart- inspiring them and evoking powerful emotions.

Art brings people together

Art has the power to encourage community-building experiences.

Finding people with common interest and ideals through art is a common occurrence.

The impact created by art on even a group of people is a significant matter, as bringing people together is a difficult task. The ability of art to highlight the similarity of seemingly different people and thus helping form human connections is an extraordinary feat.

Art is complex

Merely looking at the artwork from the surface isn’t enough. Art often has layers of meaning to it. To really understand art, one has to engage intellectually by looking at its context, texture, method and expertise.

Critically engaging with art makes you more informed and opens you up to different cultures and experiences.

The saddening decline of appreciation of the arts is something that must be dealt with urgently, especially at a time when we need the unifying power of art. Art is a necessary part of all of our daily lives. Everyday designs, architecture, even most of the content you consume has many aspects of art in it.

At Dhayas Foundation, we help sustain and nurture art & artists to keep the tradition of art alive by providing a digital space.

WOMEN ARTISTS AS WE SEE TODAY

Art creates commentary and speaks more than history ever can. One such commentary about the struggles of women artists is revealed as we understand. In the middle ages, the only appearance women ever made in the industry of art was in the form of portraits, like the Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ which was painted in the mid-1480s.Though we still can’t be sure of whether the idea of painting portraits of women in the middle ages was even original. The first caricatures and clay models of women draw their links to the timelines of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, then in Indian temples, following in the books like Kamasutra. Parallelly, falling back to the western scenario, it’s during the Roman empire that we actually see women emerging as strong inspiration for artists. And by the time we reached the end of the Renaissance period i.e; 1600 CE, women as artists were all over the limelight for their exceptional sense of art.

Art history, among other disciplines as well, has left a large number of women out of their canon simply because they are women. In the late 1950s, Margaret Keane, a female artist who is famous for her paintings of subjects with big eyes was kept behind the curtains for a long time. Walter Keane, her husband, plagiarized her paintings and introduced his wife’s work as his own to the world. It’s sad how a husband himself couldn’t stand his wife’s success.  Beginning of the 1960s made the world realise how art is perceived and evaluated according to gender. No doubt why the Feminist Art movement lasted a decade. But the question lies in this quest is about whether or not things have changed for women artists globally. 

In the October of 2018, Jenny Saville earned the title of being the most expensive female artist for her superlative self-portrait ‘Propped’ that shatters canonised representations of female beauty. But by the end of the auction at Sotheby’s, all the attention was diverted by Banksy’s ‘Girl with a balloon’ as it was shredded live in the auction right after it was sold. Somehow, only half of the painting was shredded and now the half shredded painting is worth more than it used to. Many choose to believe that this stunt pulled by Banksy was symbolic of his comments on capitalism but let’s not forget how Saville’s painting was nothing more than a historical footnote by the end of the day.It could be true that the stunt by Banksy at Sotheby’s could actually be symbolic to any of his thoughts but what caught our attention here is how Jenny Saville’s achievement was not covered over different news channels as it was supposed to. Can we even really blame the shredding of the ‘Girl with a balloon’ for diverting it’s attention from Saville’s story? Or was it the media’s ignorance? The fact that men never missed upon their chances to steal limelight or overshine their work is no more a secret. Sadly, we don’t even know how many stories like Keane’s and Saville’s are still a secret to the world.

Today, female artists contribute only 2 percent of the market. Feminist activist group like Guerilla Girls exist today because things never really changed during the 1970s’ Feminist Art movement or even during Renaissance, or maybe they just fell back in place as they use to be. It’s true that very few female artists exist in the market and the research published about them is even lesser but another factor that functions behind the differences is : Bias, not only in terms of exposure but even for the prices of their work. We see drastic price differences between the work of female artists and male artists especially in the countries which are facing higher gender inequality issues. 

Yet all is not lost. It might take some time but the global market is already building it’s understanding of how there is no “female art” to exist but rather knowing that art, in general, shapes the world and is shaped by culture. We as artists, as audience or even as mere admirers of art need to support art for what it is and not because whose is it or where does it come from. Support originality and stand against exploitation in any form. And if there’s just art, let it exist.