Kolkata: On a lazy summer afternoon, which was meant to be spent at leisure, Wasma Mirza was left awestruck by the beautiful bed sheets and tablecloth that adorned the rooms of her grandmother’s residence in Darbhanga, Bihar.
Mesmerised by its beauty, she was compelled to trace the history of the artwork that was displayed before her. “My grandmother told me that those artwork had been sourced from a village called Madhubani, which wasn’t very far from our Darbhanga residence. I decided to pay a visit to the village, from where the now-dying art-form Madhubani Art or Mithila Paintings has originated.”
ABC of Madhubani/Mithila Art
Determined to have a closer look and better understanding of what this art was all about and why it was dying, she along with her parents (Shahanshah Mirza, great-great-grandson of Wajid Ali Shah and Fatima Mirza) went to Madhubani.
“On the day we visited Madhubani, I was extremely delighted to witness the haat in progress. I was left fascinated with what I saw – women selling their Madhubani artwork, as some in small batches sat under the tree, giving the final strokes to some of their near finished products,” she said. She further added, “However, my visit to this haat left me a bit disheartened, as I saw that there were not many buyers for this artwork.”
E for Entrepreneur
As locals speak Mithila, in her first visit, Wasma took an interpreter with her to understand both the artwork and communicate with the artist in order to seal the deal. “I am in the second year of college and will soon be graduating. So, career happens to be on the top list of our discussions. When I saw these handicrafts at my grandparent’s house, I got an idea of starting a small business by buying from these women and selling it to my family and friends, back in Kolkata. However, I was appalled by the response that these artists were getting in their own town. There were very few buyers and most of the artists were from the economically backward community. This further encouraged me to promote their work in my own small way,” she told to eNewsroom.
Social Media to boost the sale
Determined to help the artists, she used her savings to purchase a couple of artworks from the haat. “I used WhatsApp and Facebook to promote the handicrafts, and I got a great response from my family and friends in Kolkata. Overwhelmed with the response, now on a regular basis I am getting a number of these products from Madhubani, straight from these women artists and am selling them in Kolkata, for a very marginal profit. This is my small way of reviving a dying art and paying the artists their due. They are generally left underpaid by middlemen.”
Wasma’s work model may be new and small in size, but experienced artists in Mithila Art, believe that this can be beneficial for them. Speaking to eNewsroom, from Madhubani was Anjali Jha, who ekes out a living by doing Madhubani painting, said, “In our villages, almost every house has an expert in Mithila art. So, there is a surplus product but less number of buyers. The maximum money made by artists like us is Rs 10000 a month. Agents make more profit than us, but if someone could directly contact us like this girl from Kolkata and give us regular work, then at least we can expect a steady flow of income.”
Adding to that Shalini Karn, an emerging Madhubani artist said, “This kind of an initiative will be beneficial for the local artists. Today, it has become essentially important for the artists to have a market beyond the the local haat, to market their product and make a steady income. It’s encouraging to see urban girls taking interest in us.”