DONATE A BOOK INITITAIVE, SEPTEMBER 9’2010
Under the “Donate a Book” initiative of UNESCO-Times Foundation, UNESCO in collaboration with the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum organized a workshop for children to enable them to discover the traditional arts and crafts of India and the stories hidden in them. The schedule of the workshop was: first, visit the museum to understand the Indian heritage and then participate in a writing activity of developing stories to enhance their imagination and writing skills, and their understanding and appreciation of the traditional arts.
We were met by Ms. Raphaele, representative from UNESCO who took the children for a guided tour of the museum. But before the tour, there was a dance performance waiting for us. We were shown a traditional dance form of Orissa, ‘GOTIPUA”, which was performed by boys aged 11-14 years. This dance is performed in temples to please Lord Shiva. They were known as ‘Devadasis’ in earlier times. Because of their elaborate makeup and attire they looked like girls. It was only upon closer look did we guess they were boys. Their elegance and poise was marvelous. The flexibility they displayed in the dance was remarkable. The children were awestruck at the complex dance poses they performed with ease.
After the performance, we took a round of the museum and saw the many exhibits displayed there. The children shared their opinions about the handicrafts. They stated that the works of the artisans of the 16th and 17th century had much more soul than the present day artisans. The works were minutely detailed and each piece is a masterpiece. Such crafts now go unrecognized and unacknowledged. With the progress of industries, technologically advanced machines have taken over their domain, killing their skills.
In the early times when there were no machines, the craftsmen would toil for months to prepare a piece. And if there was a flaw, they would abandon it and start anew. And now the machines help correct a work. But the earlier sculptures are perfect with their flaws and the flaws make them beautiful.
After that we went into a hall where various sculptures were displayed. The children were grouped into 4 or 5 and asked to write a story based on any artifact of their choice. One group chose the village market scene; another group chose a pattachitra of the war in Ramayana. They let their imagination soar and wrote some really nice stories some gripping tales of war. On completion of the story, one child from each group read the story aloud. Each story was unique and showed that the children enjoyed the flavors of imagination.