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Craftspersons who kept alive the traditional forms against odds

Craftspersons who kept alive the traditional forms against odds

The Crafts Council of Telangana which recently honoured craftsmen and women chosen from across the country with their ‘Sanmaan’ Awards. A few artisans share their journey in the field:

Satish Nagender Poludas, (designer and craft entrepreneur, Studio Kora) was the first person in his family to enter the world of design. “We are a typical Telugu family and my brother is into software,” he shares with a smile. He took a fancy to design and joined the National Institute of Design. “Only after passing I realised it is all hardcore and one has to start from the grass roots.” With an interest in handicrafts and handloom, he has been working as a design consultant with Uzramma for many years in creating Malkha fabric.

His team works with NGOs across the country. “We connect with farmers through our work on khadi,” he states. The team travels across villages and helps in creating work for the villagers. “We work with farmers who grow indigenous cotton and work on their requirements; it could be a loom for ₹30,000 or even a meagre ₹50 for a spindle. We give them ideas so that they can start earning. We don’t have a big set up or studio. We work with villagers in their houses and set up things to make sure they get work.”

Satish has dreams of setting up a village near Vizag where artisans from across the country can learn how to create and become self-sufficient. “Now I have many clients and have to travel a lot to earn my bread and butter. In a few years from now, I will work to make my dream come true.”

Dalavai Chinna Ramanna (Excellence in Craft, Leather Puppetry at the state level), who’s getting the award for his creation of a temple gopuram shaped floor lampshade is the torch-bearer of his family and continues the rich tradition of leather puppetry. He grew up watching his grandfather and parents create unique leather puppetry forms and narrate mythological stories through these stringed forms. “My mother has travelled abroad doing many such shows,” he says with pride.

A self-taught artist, he did not get any formal training. “I used to watch how elders worked and just learnt from seeing,” he states. Hailing from Nimmalakunta in Anantapur, Chinna Ramanna has been travelling across the country with his leather puppets for the past 20 years now. The leather puppets tell stories from different episodes of Ramayana. Some of them include: Sundarakanda, Mahi Ravana Charitra, Lakshmana Moorcha, Sati Sulochana, Indrajit Charitramu, Ravana Vadha and Sri Rama Pattabhishekam.

Interestingly Chinna Ramanna never does a sketch; he draws directly on leather to create his form. I never considered it tough. If you think something is tough, you can never do it,” he states.

His dream is to create a Padmavyuham (from Mahabharatha) through his leather puppets.

Hailing from Srikakulam district, Maavuri Alivelu (Khadi Weaving at the state level) carries forward the weaving heritage. “My grandfather and father were known for their weaving, especially dhotis,” she shares. She belongs to the traditional weaving community and has been carrying forward the legacy. “After my husband passed away, my sister and her husband have been helping me run the looms,” she says.

For the past 11 years, she has been working with the jamdani style on khadi. “I am currently working on weaving a sari with jamdani design of Radha Krishna and hope to bring it to the awards function,” she informs.

The weavers face a lot of hardships, she says. “It is not so tough physically but there is a lot of strain on the eyes; one has to be extra careful while weaving.”

The Swachh Bharat campaign gets a new depiction in the Kondapalli toys of Moguloju Venugopal (educational and craft proficiency). Currently pursuing his education in Polytechnic college, the youngster came up with the idea of creating a new theme with the traditional wooden toys of Kondapalli.

The theme shows a model village with clean air and greenery. He learnt the craft from his artisan father Moguloju Srinivasa Chari, who has been working in the field for the past 20 years. “My father does traditional themes like Dasavataram and I have contemporary ideas,” he states. The family lives in Ibrahimpatnam in Kondapalli and he travels to Vijayawada for his college. After college, he is at home honing the skills from his father. “I love to do more modern themes like showing a city life in Kondapalli.”

Rajeev Pulaveer, (Leather Puppetry at the national level) belongs to the 13th generation of traditional shadow puppeteers in Kerala. “Shadow puppetry is an art form, a ritual in Kerala temples,” he informs. The traditional shadow puppetry in temples is Ramayana-based. He is very busy between January and May when he performs every night from 10 pm to early morning in temples of the Malabar region. “The story of shadow puppetry is that Bhadrakali was busy fighting demon king Darika asura when Rama-Ravana war happened, hence she misses out being a witness to Ravana’s death. When she expresses her wish to watch it, Shiva replicates the scenes through shadow puppetry and hence this form has become a ritual performed in temples,” he explains.

When performing outside temples, he takes up different themes; Indian freedom struggle, Panchatantra stories, Shakesperean dramas all told through shadow puppetry. “Our new story is Story of the earth. We talk about its history, present scenario and future.”

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