Biswa Bangla to present 'Heritage Arts and Crafts of West Bengal' exhibition in the UK

Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 03rd May 2016 04:47 EDT

Britons will experience the dynamic mysticism of West Bengal’s arts and crafts in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow from 3- 15 May 2016. Biswa Bangla will present exhibitions, live demonstrations and workshops on the making and rich history of the 'Mukhosh' or Masks of Bengal by artist Shankar Das and the visual storytelling form of Patachitra by Suman Chitrakar.

Biswa Bangla, ‘Where the world meets Bengal’, is a Trinamul government initiative of one of the most culturally diverse states in India, West Bengal. Biswa Bangla, through its partners and networks, impacts over 10,000 artisans, craftspeople and weavers. It encourages innovation, provides design assistance and improves quality and supply chains for the handloom and handicraft products of the state. With craftsmanship they want to share the energy and creativity of the people. The development of Rural Craft and Culture Hubs is overseen by, a social enterprise. In collaboration with UNESCO, the creation of Rural Craft and Culture Hubs across the state not only encourages innovation and preserves the culture and talent of Bengal but also enriches and improves the quality of life of artisans and craftspeople. 

The summer calendar of Gods and Demons exhibitions begins at the Nehru Centre (3-6 May) in London's Mayfair area – the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in London and will also visit both Glasgow (12-13 May) and Edinburgh (14-15 May). The Edinburgh Museum, is home to spectacular collections of decorative art, where we will be hosting live demonstrations and workshops and then continue on to being a part of the opening weekend of the Southside Fringe Festival in Glasgow, hosted by ArtVillage to passionately promote a wider interest in arts, crafts and skills and spur interest in the learning and teaching through community engagement. 

Like the arts and crafts of Bengal, Gods and Demons is a topic that remains relevant and captivating in the twenty first century and will also be a part of this exhibition. The theme of good and evil is not only the starting point for the genesis of Patachitra and Mukhosh, but has enchanted audiences for thousands of years. Heralding from Bengal, the history of their origin is just as mysterious as the masks themselves. Perhaps the best place to start is their affiliation with powerful witches, who according to Bengali folklore, brought the masks into being as a way of concealing their identity. The rich colour and flamboyant designs were also intended to attract innocent victims, sacrificing them in return for immortality. The initial genesis of the masks began with great religious importance but now find themselves an integral part of many different dance forms, used symbolically to appease the demon gods and usher in peace and prosperity. 

Patachitra subjects began with religion and folklore, nowadays the paintings depict contemporary events like terrorist attacks, tsunamis and earthquakes. Whilst the traditional style of the Patachitra has remained constant for thousands of years, the depicted subjects have seen a shift in the passage of time, just as our perceived concept of Gods and Demons has. What makes modern Patachitras so enchanting is their ability to portray important social themes and the demons of our day, like gender inequality, child marriage and climate change whilst staying true to the ancient and mesmerising style. 

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