14 December 2019

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Anwesha: Seeking the Tribal Instincts

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Their rustic world is different from our advanced lifestyle. Yet they score a point higher when it comes to creativity and craftsmanship. The unique tribal culture distinct by its intimacy with nature is a treasure for the world. Anwesha, an NGO started by Kolkata-based social worker Subhasini Kohli in 1989, has provided a commercial podium to the tribal artisans for their various forms of crafts. Starting with 24 artisans, today it employes 1261 artisans supporting a population of 5000.

The undeveloped and unrecognised status of the tribal craftsmen of Eastern India motivated Subhasini Kohli to envisage a platform that would give financial feet to them as well as flourish the legacy of rich art and crafts of India. Realising the importance of female professional literacy, she ensured 60 percent reservation for women in this organisation. She emphasised the fact that although men manufactured the crafts it was the women who ran households and managed the monetary matters. So there welfare and awareness was the nodal point of development. Besides, in most of the craft types, women do the central manufacturing task. She also foresaw that this crafts could earn a handsome foreign exchange and secure a prominent place for the country in the tourism map of the world.

Her dream took shape with a fund that she raised with the contributions made by her friends and acquaintances. The money earned was rotated for the succeeding product manufacturing and sale. But an unsupportive family became the greatest hurdle in her noble venture. While she succeeded to strengthen her family of workers, she was gradually estranged from her own family. Being unmarried there was no one to take care in her ailing days. She embodied the triumph of will over challenges. Today the products of Anwesha have reached the coffee table magazines and drawing rooms of many households without any planned advertisement.

Anwesha strives to ensure sustainable livelihood to the marginalised craftsmen and artisans in general and the tribal artisans in particular. It acts as a bridge between the bare-footed tribal artists and both the domestic as well as foreign marketplaces.

The demand of these heritage crafts, which is an outcome of creativity, labour and resources, are on a constant rise. Other than putting up shops Anwesha participates in various handloom and crafts fair through out the country. The NGO considers exposure of the artisans to be inevitable for the growth and enrichment of the crafts industry. The exhibitions facilitate direct customer interaction that helps the artists to know the user wants themselves. The Secretary of Anwesha, Bipin Bihari Sahoo said, “Through exposure not only the public come to know about the vast range of tribal products but the artisans know about the worth of their art. This encourages them to develop their work further for more demand.”

Product file

•    Dokra

•    Terracota

•    Tribal jewellery

•    Palm leaf engravings

•    Patta and tassor paintings

•    Silver filigree

•    Lacquered crafts

•    Sabai grass crafts

•    Paper Machie and coconut shell

•    Stone carvings

•    Wood painting and carvings

•    Sea shell work

•    Horn crafts

•    Brass and bellmetal crafts

•    Coir crafts

•    Golden grass crafts

•    Bamboo and cane crafts.

The artisans are imparted training for skill up-gradation and product diversification. They are exposed to the tribal crafts of other tribes, which amplify the scope of fusion of various styles. To make the jewellery contemporary to suit the urban choice, they are trained to improvise on the typical ones. While the heavier styles are popular in the Indian market, foreigners prefer the finer and lighter ones. Dipen Rath, an artisan from Koraput says, “After every training and exhibition innovations come to us easily and the variety increases.” He further reiterated, “Today I not only earn enough to run my family  but is aware about many things in business like product cycle and market forces.”

Anwesha’s annual turnover for the domestic market is 50 to 60 lakhs and 10 lakh from the export business. The products find a lucrative market in US, South Africa, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Argentina. But, as the Secretary points at, government schemes and incentives to support this tribal crafts industry are not formulated after taking a stock of the problems of the tribes directly. What the schemes aim to solve is not the actual problems of the tribes. Anwesha tries to fill this gap assisting the tribal to overcome the problems and expand their business.


Last Updated ( Monday, 05 July 2010 17:23 )  

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