By Mehk Chakraborty Posted On : February 23, 2017 in Society , Kolkata
Green Tara Initiative Charitable Trust, Culture Monks, Participatory Publishing Praxis and Francesca Fini with support from Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, presented ‘Kumortuli Rising’, as a part of ‘One Billion Rising 2017’.
In dimly-lit shanties, these artists explained to us the elaborate process of creating idols, where visitors gathered to hear the experiences they had in a male-dominated industry. Embracing the various roles of being a woman, these creators and nurturers introduced us to their children, among whom were daughters, which truly epitomises ‘Devi’ herself.
The day closed with the staging of ‘Digambarim: The Body Alone’, a performance highlighting the strength of a woman through the trials and tribulations of her life. The question that prevails, though, through our stay in Kumortuli is whether goddesses are being created here, or are the creators the actual goddesses, which we fail to see or acknowledge.
Since Valentine’s Day this year, the life of Kumartuli’s women idol-makers has taken a new turn. After fighting tooth and nail to make their presence felt in the male bastion of idol-making, the women are finally receiving help to emerge as artists with equal rights as their male counterparts, capable of becoming market leaders.With the help of its Kolkata partners, The One Billion Rising revolution, a global wo men’s rights campaign started by writer Eve Ensler in 2013, reached out to Kumartuli women artists on February 14.Christened `Kumartuli Rising’, the movement will handhold every woman artist till she can negotiate in the market independently and have control over it. So far, the women have been at the mercy of the men artists, who seem to dominate the market.
Green Tara, the NGO that rehabilitated the Park Street rape victim, has partnered with Kumartuli Rising; also involved are Participatory Pub lishing Praxis and Culture Monks , both of which have been working in Kumartuli, documenting the history of the potters’ district, the metamorphosis of the styles and processes and empowering artists digitally. Through the exercise, the groups realised how marginalized a life the women artists of Kumartuli led.
Currently , only four women artists from Kumartuli have broken the glass ceiling: China, Mala, Lakshmi and her daughter Soma, all Pals, a caste surname used by Kumartuli idol-makers. “Women clad in sarees and perched on ladders to mould goddesses has a novelty factor… but each of us have gone through a lot before we made it to the features pages of newspapers and magazines…“ said China.
Neither China’s father Hemanta nor Lakshmi’s husband Haru wanted them to join the trade. However, Mala’s father Dulal did not mind when the 14-year-old sat next to him in his workshop and mould clay dolls. It was merely a child’s play, he thought, witho ut realizing that one day , these would become perfect miniature idols.
“People ridiculed me when I took over my father’s business after his sudden death. No one thought it was possible. No woman had done it before…“
said China. “Despite the publicity we have received through media, are we able to charge as much as our male colleagues?“ said Mala, even as she made a symbolic clay model, signifying freedom and equality in society , for Kumartuli Rising.
The movement was inaugurated with a performance titled `Digambaram: The Body Alone’, scripted by theatre personality Janardan Ghosh, with the central theme of violence against women. “We will launch a website for Kumartuli, featuring all artists. At the click of a mouse, people can get a virtual tour of the area, visit an artist and his idols, and buy and sell the idols online from any corner of the world. We will promote the women artists through Kumartuli Rising,“ said Green Tara chief Shantasree Chowdhury .