FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS: Hasta Shilpa Mela, West Bengal, 2019
The Hasta Shilpa Mela, 2019, held at Eco Park, Rajarhaat, once again provided me a marvelous chance for connecting with my roots. Folk culture which has continued unchanged over centuries in India, regardless of political change and turmoil, provides a true index of national sensibility. These cultures still point at the epics as sources of power and cultural sustenance. One cannot deny that in the recasting and re-imagining of India in the theatre of the post- independence period, the epics do play a very powerful role as leading dramatists revisit epics themes and plots, fairly often. However, as the songs of the Chitrakars on child marriage and safe driving prove, rural/folk culture is trying to factor in significant social changes and urban themes/preoccupations/dilemmas into its cultural matrix. Such Melas allow us to grasp the lineaments/shapes/outlines of modernity among the practitioners of indigenous art. The Mela also highlights issues of commerce as it impacts Indian folk handicrafts at a global level. Mud, cane, jute, betel nut, Dokra, shola, coconut, vegetable dyes, imagined and re-imagined in many magical artistic formations, moulds and designs, truly take one’s breath away and reveal yet another irresistible face of Bengal. Finally, I thank Sri Chandan Mitra for his time and sincere enthusiasm for this project.