West Bengal is known for its cultural heritage that covers a wide range of traditional crafts and performing arts practised by the rural communities in the villages. Due to globalization, change in market trends and other contributing factors many of these crafts and performing arts do not find enough space in today's craft market or attract the audience as a medium of entertainment. As a result, it has been increasingly difficult for the community artists to depend on their age-old craft or art practices for their living.
The Rural Craft and Cultural Hub (RCCH) Project aims to develop a vibrant creative sector by safeguarding and professionalizing the traditional skills of West Bengal into viable enterprises and ensuring socio-economic inclusion of the poor. The project is supported by Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T), Government of West Bengal, in collaboration with UNESCO. Contact Base, a social enterprise specializing in culture and development, is a national partner of UNESCO for rolling out its flagship model Art for Life for developing the rural creative enterprise based on art and craft skills. Contact Base is designing and implementing the RCCH Project to develop 15 Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs in West Bengal.
- Developing 15 Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs in West Bengal.
- Building capacities of over 12000 folk performers and craftspersons to:
- Work collectively to address the challenges of continuing the transmission of their ICH skills by facilitating passing on the knowledge from veteran folk artists and junior artists.
- Safeguard the traditional crafts and performing art forms and the embedded knowledge on those forms as well Promote the folk forms in the contemporary context.
- Make the folk artists and craftspersons aware of the entitlements and benefits of government schemes.
- Facilitate exchange and collaborations with national and international artists and music band.
- Sensitizing the people in West Bengal and India in general on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) form(s) to create new demand/ audiences by organizing village festivals, events, cultural tours, workshops, heritage education etc.
- Linking the beneficiary communities of practitioners to relevant government schemes in support of their practices and socio-economic conditions.
RCCH covers 12,091 Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) practitioners pursuing 18 traditional craft and performing arts in 15 districts in West Bengal. 88% of the artists belong to marginalised groups under Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Indigenous communities in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Uttar and Dakshin Dinajpur, Purulia and Bankura are covered under the project. 33% of the artists are women.
The following list shows the names of art and craft forms -
- Sholapith at Bardhaman.
- Bamboo works at Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Bardhaman, Birbhum.
- Pottery at Uttar Dinajpur and North 24 Parganas.
- Dhokra at Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur.
- Folk Instuments at Purulia, Bankura and Nadia.
- Patachitra at Purba Medinipur and Purulia.
- Baul & Fakiri at Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Nadia, Birbhum and Bankura.
- Bhawaiya at Alipurduar and Cooch Behar.
- Bhatiyali at North 24 Parganas.
- Jhumur at Purulia, Bankura and South 24 Parganas.
- Chau at Purulia.
- Raibenshe at Murshidabad, Birbhum and Bardhaman.
- Mukha dance at Dakshin Dinajpur.
- Darjeeling folk songs and dance forms.
- Bonbibir Pala at North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.
- Khon at Dakshin Dianajpur and Uttar Dinajpur.
- Domni at Malda.
- Puppetry at Nadia and Bankura.
The basic capacity building workshops provide opportunities for the community artists to strengthen the foundation skills of the traditional performing artists and crafts persons. The project aims to organize these workshops which follow traditional Guru Shishyo Parampara for almost all the community artists involved in the project irrespective of their skill level. Veteran Gurus and senior folk artists and crafts persons share the traditional knowledge and skills with the juniors. Total 7558 artists that covered 1157 Baul artists, 1973 Chau artists, 1730 Bhawaiya artists, 839 Jhumur artists, 241 Raibenshe dancers, 171 puppeteers, 551 Dhokra weavers have attended basic training.
Advanced skill trainings are organized for the top-category rural artists who are trained by senior folk artists as well as distinguished urban artists. These workshops train them on on-stage presentation, usage of microphones, body language, interaction with audience and co-artists among other important aspects. The advanced workshops of traditional crafts were organized to introduce product diversification, new designs as per the market trends. Total 846 artists that covered 211 Baul artists, 83 Chau artists, 135 Bhawaiya artists, 305 Jhumur artists, 11 puppeteers, 10 Patachitra artists among others have attended advanced level capacity building workshops.
Fairs and exhibitions provide good opportunities for promoting the traditional arts and crafts in the market and get the market feedback for further improvement. The artists get exposure to a wider market by participating in these fairs and exhibitions. Rural artists and crafts persons visit all over India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Goa, Gurgaon and other places and showcase their performing skill and craftsmanship. These exposures help artists to connect with today's customers and people also get opportunities to appreciate the traditional performing arts and handmade crafts.
As on March 2018, several initiatives of infrastructure development are underway.
A total of 17 folk art centers will be built across Darjeeling and Kalimpong for which the communities have donated land. This initiative has received go-ahead from the Governmemnt of West Bengal and the work will start soon.
Another 12 new folk art centers will be constructed under this project at different craft and cultural hubs of West Bengal.
2 pre-existing resource centers, at Gorbhanga of Nadia district (for Baul-Phakiri music) and at Bamnia (for Chau dance) will be renovated.
Documentation of ICH is regarded as one of the most important component of the UNESCO Convention of 2003 to Safeguard ICH. The convention emphasizes on documentation of oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and universe and traditional craftsmanship.
As part of documentation of different folk traditions under RCCH project the followings were taken up:
- Different oral traditions, practices and performing art of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
- Documentation on Raibenshe dance Murshidabad.
- Documentation on folk theatre form – Domni at Malda.
- Documentation on Dhokra at Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur.
- Documentation on Purulia’s Patachitra - scroll painting form.
- Documentation of oral traditions – Baul, Bhawaiya, Jhumur.
- Documentation of training procedures of all ICH forms.
Documentation of Workshops
Workshop with Baul Fakirs on May 9 – 13, 2016
The village festivals organised at the craft and cultural hubs are attracting a good number of visitors. Those who are interested in cultural tourism find these village festivals very interesting as they offer an opportunity to interact with the artists and to learn about the craft processes. The average footfall for the village festivals is about 5000.
The Folk Art Centres to be built at 31 cultural hubs including 17 at Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts will further boost the cultural tourism sector - as these resource centres will be available for staying at the hubs. Tourists will get the taste of everyday life of the artists/craftpersons as well as will be able to visit nearby places of interest.