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Cultural treasure – crafts in India and sharing the knowledge


The art fairs (Part 2)
KG Subramanyan Artist
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You see, we had at the back of our mind what people used to do for the fairs in Santiniketan. At that time it was part of the larger fair, and there used to be the participation of the art school, a little, mainly they made special cards and sold them, then they made things for children. Occasionally they made kind of a hand, I mean sort of illustrated little booklets, then clay toys and things of that kind. So we thought that here too we will start with these little things which will attract people of different age groups. So we made, in the first fair I remember, we made a lot of animal masks for children, then we made calendars sort of thing with hand painted calendars, and then we had all sorts of special food shops, then also some stage area we had. One or two of our - I suppose this will disturb you? No, okay - so they had this sort of live puppet show kind of a thing. In fact, still my young colleague at that time who was a teacher for a long while still writes little skits for that, for the live puppet show, though he is not in good health anymore. So, this is how it started, but as time went, then it became a little more elaborate and then we collected more money. Then, we could then donate things for various purposes, in fact, earthquake relief. We did a certain amount of donations when there was an unfortunate communal disturbance in this area. That is at that time when I started doing illustrated books. In fact, the book called God Made all Creatures Alike, kind of thing. That I did at that time. After that, so I think every fair or every other time we produced one or two other books too, and that is even after I went to Santiniketan and I came back here. So, and I thought that it was a very good outlet for student creativity every year outside the normal study exercises they are doing, but somehow there were a lot of young people who thought that it was cutting into their course time, and so they didn’t have it every year. So, now I think they are probably thinking of it after 3 years, but then last year when they had and I was around here, they had a collection of about 50 lakhs of rupees, which was quite sizeable.  Anyway, here is that Santiniketan, the big fair, doesn’t have any more participation of the year, so now Santiniketan, the art department has its own fair because the big fair attracts crowds from all over the nearby towns and it’s almost impossible to breathe, while the small art fair within the Kala Bhavan complex, it has all kinds of various activities all centred around this sort of prints, calendars, these things, masks, trade shows, probably some musical performances and things of that kind. It adds colour to the environment.

KG Subramanyan (1924-2016) was an Indian artist. A graduate of the renowned art college of Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan, Subramanyan was both a theoretician and an art historian whose writings formed the basis for the study of contemporary Indian art. His own work, which broke down the barrier between artist and artisan, was executed in a wide range of media and drew upon myth and tradition for its inspiration.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 4 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 10 September 2010