In between my first and second visits to the image-makers of Kumartuli, I spent some time in Shantiniketan. It’s a small, quiet (compared to Kolkata!) town about three hours by train from Kolkata, and it has become something of a second home destination for people wishing to take a break from the faster pace of the city. There is a university there that was founded by the much-revered poet Rabindranath Tagore and his family.
As Santiniketan increased in size, it grew up and around the beautiful villages of the indigenous Santhal people (one of the largest tribal groups throughout India). Some of my favorite memories of my time there are of wandering around the small streets and alleys, discovering sculptures and murals covering houses, garden walls, and other structures, made of local terracotta clays, concrete, and tile mosaics.
Another favorite place nearby is the Amar Kutir Society for Rural Development, which is a cooperative employing more than 450 people in the production of leather craft, batik textiles, and bamboo crafts. You can check out their website here: http://amarkutir.com/ .
I visited Amar Kutir with the kind and generous Dr. Prasanta Ghosh, who besides being a former Fulbrighter to Washington D.C., is also the head of the Deparment of Social Work at Visva-Bharati University, Sriniketan, and a very active board member for Amar Kutir. The Amar Kutir objective is the reorganization and rejuvenation of cottage and rural industries in handicrafts in the light of the ideals of self-help outlined by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore’s statue at the cooperative is below.
While I was in Shantiniketan, I purchased a book by Tagore called On Art & Aesthetics, a selection of his essays, lectures and letters. I’ve been enjoying his manner of expression, and his ideas. I’ll leave you with one quote from an essay entitled, “What is Art?,” to chew on before I head back to Kolkata for the next visit to Kumartuli.
“For Art, like life itself, has grown by its own impulse, and man has taken his pleasure in it without definitely knowing what it is. And we could safely leave it there, in the subsoil of consciousness, where things that are of life are nourished in the dark.”
I welcome your opinions and comments!
November 28, 2014 at 8:45 am
There’s another book of Tagore — Meaning of Art, which is well worth reading along with his conversation with Einstein.
A quote from the book:
” So, life is Maya (forms), as moralists love to say, it is and it is not. All that we find in it is the rhythm through which it shows itself. Are rocks and minerals any better? Has not science shown us the fact that the ultimate difference between one element and another is only that of rhythm? The fundamental distinction of gold from mercury lies merely in the difference of rhythm in their respective atomic constitution, like in their different constituents but in their different metres of their situation and circumstances. There you find behind the senses the Artist, the Magician of rhythm, who imparts an appearance of substance to the unsubstantial.”
I think it completely resonates with your work with unfired clay figures.
November 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm
Thank you for this quote, Dibyendu, and for the recommendation. I also believe that the essence of a sculpture is in its rhythm. I’m looking forward to reading more.
February 25, 2015 at 7:51 am
I’ve finally just started reading your blog, Cyntha, and enjoy the balance of beauty, information and personal response. I look forward to reading more! I also look forward to seeing your work as it is evolving during your stay in Kolkata.
The colors in your photos are so delicate and splendid, thank you. I was also struck by the laundry hanging up in people’s balcony areas, an important sidebar for me in your photos of the murals. Like the sculptures themselves — available for all the world to see in all their stages of evolution — the laundry is freely shared as, I assume, part of life. What is considered public and private, and what is guarded or shared, can be so deeply based in culture.
I loved the Tagore quote you shared, as well as that shared by Dibyendu. Clearly I should be reading and pondering Tagore. His observations regarding that which is unseen, unknown, variously manifest, fertile, rhythmic and life-giving — as well as affirming — are stunning.
Many thanks for your blog!
February 25, 2015 at 10:44 am
Thank you, Meg, for your thoughtful observations and of course for the compliments!