Prior to stating why I created this space and many such others on various social networking websites, it is only proper that I introduce myself. I am Arunima Pati and I belong to the State of Odisha. This state is situated in the Eastern part of the country. Quite often many Odias (people of Odisha) have experienced this depressing feeling of trying to explain where they hail from. If we think the world is shrinking and more people know more about more places now, it is true. But, despite the advancement of technology and globalisation, Odias still face this question regarding their identity time and again. Just the other day a hospital nurse could figure out Odisha’s location only when I told her that it was situated between West Bengal in the north and Andhra Pradesh in the south. Well, it hurts to know that they are aware of the states located in the north and south of our state but not the one in between.
Academically, I am an archaeologist. The fascination for antiques and ruins made me fix my goal at a very young age and I acquired my doctorate in archaeology. My work relates to ethnoarchaeology. Ethnoarchaeology etymologically means the archaeological study of races. To simplify the explanation, I can say it is very close to cultural anthropology. Ethnoarchaeologists study the present cultural scenario of an ethical group and try to trace the origin of their habits and customs. So, that was my pursuit. My Ph.D. work is about a card game which is still being played albeit very sparingly in but a few pockets. But this card game used to be one of the most favourite games of the people of almost every age group just three to four centuries back. While working on the cards I went on to document the process of their manufacture. Due to the popularity of the game in the olden times, the making of these pictorial cards had come to be associated with the popular traditional painting styles of different regions. As my area of research was my state, Odisha, I went to Pattachitra artists who still make the cards, even if they are more of collective items now.
Pattachitra is the traditional painting style of Odisha. Its antiquity is closely associated with the start and spread of popularity of the Jagannath cult. The Chitrakaras (artists) who have been assigned the responsibility of painting these cards since the very beginning still live as a separate community and still earn their livelihood through this art. I visited the places where the Chitrakaras stay. In the course of my interaction and observation, I gradually realised how unfortunate are our artists! I saw family after family toiling through weeks and months; I saw youngsters eager and passionate to learn the art, but I also saw how desperate they were to get pieces of art sold. It takes several days to even months to complete one good painting and several months to complete one pack of cards which has a minimum of 96 cards. But, since the sale is low, I saw stacks of paintings and painted objects lying unsold in their cell-like small houses. The labour and effort of painting these with many different kinds of brushes, from the thickest to the finest ones, and the strain their eyes, backs and hands go through is not compensated by the measly amount they are able to earn from just a few sales.
This was an example of just one community and one type of art of the whole state. Hordes of such communities of artists are either starving or not getting what they actually deserve, and they deserve not just money but fame and respect too! I am a student of history and culture and it is my responsibility to take measures to keep our cultural heritage alive. This is a small attempt to bring about a little difference in the condition of the artists of Odisha. Culturally, Odisha is extraordinarily rich. It has its very own dance form, music, handloom textiles, handicrafts and painting styles. All that is needed is some promotion and publicity to make the world at large aware of the State’s bounties.
In the marketing world our artists suffer a lot. They are not able to reach the customers many a time. Also, people from outside Odisha are not aware of the value, even of the existence of these handloom and handicrafts. These art objects are a little high in cost like various others from different regions of India, or rather the world. One has to understand the cost of raw material, and more importantly, the hard work behind making even one piece of saree. At my space I will try to avail these art products at a cost at which it will be available at their hometowns. This will prove to be cheaper for you than to buy it from a store outside Odisha or an online portal or even travelling to Odisha to get them.
To start with, I have chosen to showcase the handloom textiles of Odisha. In the western part of the state the tradition of weaving hand-woven textiles is very old. It is broadly known as Sambalpuri handloom. The wooden, manual machine that is traditionally used to weave cloth in India is used here too. Locally it is known as ‘Khatkhati’, named after the sound it makes while working.
Vibrant colours and ever-evolving patterns without compromising on the traditional look of the designs are the characteristic features of these handloom textiles. At OdiArts you can choose from the designs and patterns on display or you can order a specific colour combination of your choice. I assure you I will try to my best to find it for you.