Puri is a sacred Hindu city in the state of Odisha, on the eastern coast of India. Formerly part of Bengal, the state has its own language and keeps alive many traditional crafts and skills.
The first few days of the Puri Residency – Lead Artist Rekha Sameer with local guide – will take us to explore the city and its beautiful environs – particularly the Sun temple at Konark.
We will also be exploring the heritage villages centred around Raghurajpur – visiting local artisans, sharing skills and techniques with local artists. Raghurajpur is also known for unique dance form – called Gotipua – and other indigeneous art forms that include ceramics, hand-loom weaving and detailed handsown patchwork. In the second week artists will work on their responses to Puri’s rich art/culture and exchange artistic practice.
“Representing traditions to Building Traditions
Historically, heritage or cottage industries have been largely associated with the rural small scale family production unit with skills and knowledge handed down through generations. They use locally available materials to expound local myths and stories. Whilst globalisation brushes many cities with the same stroke and colour, cottage traditional crafts insulate itself in a bubble by focusing on the local. Could this be one of the many reasons, it is dying in many countries? Other reasons for its diminishing scale are mass machine production, environmental and climatic pressures and an increasing number of youth lost in the global digital space. In order to survive and revive itself, a shift needs to occur within the indigenous crafts industry. The focus needs to shift from not just representing traditions but to playing an active role in ‘building’ traditions through incorporation of contemporary stories, imagery and values as well as the adoption of new materials and innovations. Exchange of knowledge and energy between the local artisans and rest of the world is important. By allowing respectful appropriation and inculcating new approaches, its cultural traditions and skills will not just have a chance to survive but to grow as well. A confluence of myriad groups such as the crafts people, the artists, the art market, government and the general public results in a mutually enriching platform beneficial for all involved.
It is the aim of artists’ residencies such as 2018 Puri Art Residency to facilitate this synergy on an national and international platform. Puri Residency aims to bring together International and Indian artists and introduce them to the temples and unique crafts and art traditions of Odisha. Artists will be introduced to skills such as palm leaf carving, stone and wood carving, pata chitra and tassar painting, paper maché mask making, ganjapa playing card making, dhorka metal casting and cow dung toy making as well as dance forms such as Gotipua and Odishi. It is my hope that this exchange will be mutually rewarding and allow for a worldwide dispersal of local knowledge and skills and reinvigorate the local crafts industry.” Rekha Sameer (2018)