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 Purba Bardhaman.
- Bamboo works at Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Purba Bardhaman, Birbhum.
- Pottery at Uttar Dinajpur.
- Dhokra at Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur.
- Patachitra at Purba Medinipur and Purulia.
- Baul & Fakiri at Purba and Paschim 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 10324 artists that covered 1157 Baul artists, 1973 Chau artists, 2043 Bhawaiya artists, 989 Jhumur artists, 302 Raibenshe dancers, 482 Banbibi artists, 171 puppeteers, 85 Bhatiyali artists, 694 Patachitra artists, 1124 Dhokra weavers, 92 Basketry artists, 466 community folk artists of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, 225 Domni artists 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 4189 artists 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. The artists have participated in buyer sellar meets like Bengal Hues and Naturally Bengal. Brochures and Catalogs have been developed as part of promotion. Leaflets, graphic novels as heritage education tools have also been developed. Websites and social media pages have helped in networking and further linkages. These exposures help artists to connect with today's customers and people also get opportunities to appreciate the traditional performing arts and handmade crafts. Altogether 1000 + artists have participated in more than 150 festivals and fairs. More than 150 artists have travelled internationally mostly to Europe followed by Asia.
As part of RCCH initiative 4 folk art centers have been developed. As part of RCH initiative 8 folk art centers have been developed and are functional.
Hariharpara, Murshidabad : Baul Fakiri folk art center
Jalangi, Murshidabad : Baul Fakiri folk art center
Maldi, Purulia : Chau folk art center
Pakhiralay, South 24 Parganas : Sunderban folk art center
There are further plans of developing more such centers at Darjeeling and Kalimpong for each community.
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.
- AV Documentation on Santhal Patachitra of Majramura, Purulia Chau, Raibenshe dance, Domni and Dhokra
- Documentation of training procedures of handicraft and performing art traditions
- 1800 folk songs have been recorded and albums have been released
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.