At a time when apocalyptic news has overtaken our lives our tradition, heritage and roots in the form of our classical art and craft could have acted as an elixir but unfortunately it’s the one sector which is most neglected during this pandemic. While India has started unlocking and the government is helping most ailing sectors financially, the art and craft sector and its needs seem to have sunk in oblivion. Many like Sanjoy Roy , MD, teamwork arts well-known for organising the Jaipur Lit fest says that ”More 400 million Indians receive primary or secondary source of income from the art and cultural sector and because everything is shut down this sector is bleeding as you know for art related daily wage earners if they do not sell their art they do not eat. They do not come under any existing scheme. This sector contributes to the diversity of the country.”

Jaya Jaitley another well known name in the art and craft sector though says that artists should look at this as an opportunity and try to go online to get as many buyers as possible. “Ever since the lockdown has started my whole team was dedicated and we have been calling up 400 artisans across the country and asking feedback. All were well and were proud to be able to live through during this period also by helping other artisans too. I found a lot of positivity in their voices. We did teach them how to go digital and use zoom. They learnt and were also very excited to have known something new.”

Many in the private sector like Jonathan Kennedy, director arts India British Council says that his organisation is doing all they can to help out the artists especially women artisans in these difficult times. “The current situation is really concerning. British Council has together is trying to promote education and growth. We are looking towards the role of British Council with other organisations such as our partnership with craft village at this absolute time of uncertainty. We are also focusing on marketing of arts, artisans and let them reach the global level. British Council is aiming at women empowerment as 50% of the people in this sector are women.”

Another well- renowned organisation called Craftvillage which works for the promotion of endangered Indian arts, also organised a week long digital dialogue to reach our to as many craftsmen as possible and ensure that their voice reaches the public. Iti Tyagi, the founder of CraftVillage says, “I have been doing events for last 3-4 years as the British Council has being encouraging artists to come forward and share creativity. I wondered as to how to bring millions of artists on the forefront during this lockdown. There seemed no ray of hope due to the uncertainty of the situation, hence it became very important for me to think of bringing artists forward and making them comfortable with digital medium. My digital initiative was a test to bring forward people who are not trained to understand technology, people who were not well versed with the digital world”

It’s not just these organisations, the artists themselves are trying to adapt to the new digital medium. Padmashri Shakir Ali, known for Mughal miniature paintings says that “During this period going online is the only option to keep ourselves going. At least for a year we will not see any events, exhibitions, tourist visits and hence digital medium will play a vital role in putting forward our creations. But the intricacies of paintings that could have been seen and felt from in person will be affecting while we go online. The clarity of work will be hampered.” While some are trying to adapt for others it’s been a lost opportunity like another miniature artist Nisha Jaiswal who lost an opportunity to exhibit abroad. “I had an exhibition in the United States but due to coronavirus it has been cancelled. Though it’s disappointing, I am keeping myself busy by creating as much art work as I can these days”

National Awardee Manisha Jha though feels government intervention is the need of the hour. ”I feel that govt intervention is very important because till now the craft sector has sustained because of govt backing hence I feel our govt needs to really think about hundreds and millions of artisans who are working in this sector. Only govt programme will help taking care of the interest of artists”. While many young artists like Bahar Rohatgi have taken to new medium of online sales like Instagram to reach our to a large number of people. “Being a fine artist with limited audience took to Instagram directly. Fine arts may not be people’s necessity but i wanted to generate interest in the minds of people. I collaborated with various brands and promoted them as well as my art. It is for sure difficult transition to make since art traditionally needs physical networking and connecting with each other but we need to bring art to a wider zone by digitisation.”

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