International Webinar on Traditional Art in Contemporary Times
Banglanatak dot com in collaboration with British Council hosted an international webinar titled “Traditional Art in Contemporary Times” on 4th September. This international transcontinental webinar aspired to look at how traditional art is ever evolving and also explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting living heritage worldwide. The theme of the webinar was the contribution of intangible cultural heritage on creative economy and stakeholder roles and relationships in the context of the changing world.
The webinar reflected on the following questions:
How has COVID-19 and the burgeoning of digital platforms impacted the market for art rooted in traditions as contemporary art?
How to promote reputation of heritage art traditions?
What are the ethical issues in the market for heritage art, and how to address them?
How can innovation in traditional art be supported in contemporary times? Are there any limits?The speakers for the webinar were, Patricia Navas Röthlisberger from Colombia who is the technical lead for of the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth (CH4IG) programme at British Council Colombia, Dr. Harriet Deacon from UK who is a heritage expert working as a consultant to UNESCO and also a professor, Dr. Diego Rinallo from France, a professor at Kedge Business School and a marketing expert and Lou-ann Lee a visual artist from the indigenous community of Canada. Suresh Jayaram a curator and art historian and Anwar Chitrakar, a National Award winning Patachitra artist joined in as discussants. The webinar was moderated by Nandita Palchoudhuri, a social entrepreneur and the welcome address was given by Ananya Bhattacharya, Director, banglanatak dot com.Patricia’s talk revolved around how reviving lost practices in handicrafts, textiles, medicine, folklores, music, cuisine with passing over of traditional knowledge to the younger generation and capacity building of the indigenous communities in promotion, sales and networking do away with intermediaries and give more power to the communities. Turning traditional art into contemporary art can result in heritage safeguarding and artists' livelihoods and nnovation is the key, emphasized Patricia.
Harriet and Diego shared about their experience working with the Baul-Fakiri, Chau and Patachitra artist communities of Bengal as a part of the HIPAMS (Heritage-sensitive Intellectual Property and Marketing Strategies) project. They threw light on how important it is during these difficult times to raise awareness through online promotion, digital storytelling for creating new markets, building reputation. One possible area that can be explored during the pandemic is tapping the youth as they are coming up as new audience for all things heritage and culture. At the same time legal protection is necessary for individual and artist community against misrepresentation, misappropriation, hence ethical codes, right attributions are very necessary.
Lou-ann shared stories of misappropriation of heritage of her community, Mamalilikulla and Kwagiulth tribes of the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakwala-speaking people) and how intellectual property rights, responsibilities, ethical codes are weaved in social system and governance. One prerequisite for the safeguarding of heritage according to Lou is high respect, pride and integrity among community members towards their heritage. One can find numerous examples of misappropriation of community heritage in fashion and film and for this policies that help in practical way is necessary along with awareness and education.
The discussants added value to the webinar by sharing their side of the story on the aftermath of the pandemic. Suresh who runs a cultural space for artists emphasized on the importance of physical spaces for art and artists to thrive. He mentioned that audience likes to touch and feel the crafts so physical spaces will make a comeback once situations improve. Anwar shared a few of his Patachitra paintings on the theme of the pandemic where he has added elements of humour to lighten up the severity of the situation. With the example of Patachitra he explained how traditional art is contemporary because the form may be traditional but the ideas and themes and ever evolving.
The webinar had enthusiastic participation from 20 countries across 6 continents. The viewership of the webinar on Facebook Live was 1.9k and outreach was more than 9k.
Watch the webinar on Facebook.
Webinar in progress
One of the artworks by Anwar Chitrakar
One of the discussants Suresh Jayaram
This research project, Heritage Sensitive Intellectual Property and Marketing strategies: India (HIPAMS - INDIA), is funded by the British Academy's Sustainable Development Programme, supported under the UK Government's Global Challenges Research Fund 2018-2021.