Heritage-sensitive Intellectual Property and Marketing Strategy development workshops with the Patachitra, Chau and Baul artists

by Anindita Patra The month of September was a month of learning, interaction and sharing of stories by the rural artists practising Patachitra, Chau and Baul. Heritage-sensitive Intellectual Property and Marketing Strategy development workshops were held with the Patachitra artists of Pingla, Bauls and Fakirs of Bengal, Chau artists of Purulia and Mayurbhanj. The group had a balanced mix of both young artists as well as senior Gurus. The workshops spanning over 10 days were conducted with 50 rural artists by the team members of British Academy and Contact Base. The workshops focussed on sensitizing the artists about intellectual property and discussing the importance of digital marketing in modern times. A quick survey at the beginning of the workshops revealed that although majority of the artists had heard about social media and other digital communication tools only few of them have ever used it. Artists did not know much about intellectual property rights although they shared a number of issues which are related to IP rights. The artists shared different kind of issues they face at present like - lack of acknowledgement by the photographers, videographers and other people like researchers who take photographs and publish in various platforms including social media. In the workshop artists were made aware of their IP rights. The importance of collective marketing was presented by the HIPAMS team citing various practical examples. Artists were made aware by the HIPAMS team about the necessity of formal agreement. Artists were made conscious of digital storytelling as a powerful tool for promoting the traditional art form. A series of capacity building trainings on social media, digital storytelling were discussed with the artists. It was also planned to use signage for the visitors for proper acknowledgement of artists and to use the appropriate hashtags on social media. The remarkable part of the workshops was when the digital storytelling sessions. The Patachitra artists came up with stories about themselves, the art form and the village that they would like to share with the world. They came up with stories in the form of frames just like their paintings. Swarna Chitrakar, a senior artist of Pingla said that she would like to tell the story of the progress of their village, Pingla via digital medium. Her story threw light on how there were very few people practising the art form in the year 2004 and the journey from there to today’s Pingla where there are around 350 Patachitra artists, the younger generation is taking interest in pursuing the traditional art form, artists are travelling to different parts of the world to showcase their art form. Suman Chitrakar, a young artist’s story was about young people learning to paint, sing Pater Gaan, and make natural colours from the older family members. Mamoni Chitrakar visualized her story as the present day aspects of her village, the painted walls, the resource centre, the community museums, and the village scape showing the different plants from where they derive natural colours. Anwar Chitrakar, a National Awardee painter thought about making a digital story on the different types of Patachitra that the artists make on social themes like afforestation, water crisis etc. The storytelling session with the Chau artists brought to the fore front fascinating stories about their lives and the art form. Sarala Munda, a young female Chau dancer said that she wants to raise a question through her digital story that people worship the Goddess Durga but at the same time is not very accepting towards female Chau dancers. Senior artist Baghambar Singh Mura, a senior artist who has been doing the Kartik dance for years revealed that he likes it because Kartik is the God of War and is considered to be an eligible bachelor and dancing as the character of Kartik makes him feel young and like a hero. Anil Mahato, another senior artist disclosed that he has been dancing as the Lord Shiva in the Chau palas for the last 50 years. He said that he is a very quiet person in real life but portraying the character of Shiva makes him feel like a different person during the performance, he feels powerful. Biren Kalindi, a well known Chau artist who has performed worldwide said that he would like to depict the daily lives of the Chau dancers, the reality behind the masks through his digital story. He would like to show the villages on the river bank, children practising the art form, Gurus teaching Chau to the kids etc. The Mayurbhanj Chau dancers put forward an interesting aspect of their dance, they said that different steps of their dance has been taken from the daily activities of the people of Mayurbhanj like fishing, farming, daily house chores. The artists wanted to portray through their digital story the same. The Bauls and Fakirs shared stories from their lives, people and incidents that inspired them to choose the path of Baul. Bhajan Das Bairagya, a senior Baul said that he regrets not being able to learn from his father as he paased away when Bhajan Das was a kid, it was his elder brother who helped him learn music. Coming from a very poor family it took years for Bhajan Das to save money and buy a harmonium. Today when he looks back the journey of becoming a well known Baul has been a long one. Girish Kyapa said that as a kid he had heard the song “Chander gaye chand legeche” by Goshto Gopal on the gramophone. The words of the song made no sense to him literally. In his quest to find the inner meaning of the song he came across the plethora of Baul music and decided to pursue music. Subhadra Sharma shared her story of learning from her Guru who was Christian by religion and the problems she has to face as a woman musician. She wished to show through her digital story how Baul philosophy does not believe in any kind of division like religion, caste, creed and gender. The workshops were an opportunity for the artists to learn about IP, marketing, digital storytelling but it was a huge learning opportunity for the team conducting the workshop as well. We read about the art forms, artists, interact with them on a daily basis but rarely do we get to see this side of the artists. Robert McAffee was right when he said “storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today”. Their stories, their journey, their ups and downs, their strength and vulnerability, their experiences are what make them who they are today and this in turn enriches the art form.

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.