This grant enables Jhalapala, a Kolkata-based children’s theatre group, to work with children of the patua families in West Bengal, towards developing creative performances based on their world of imagination and patua folklore. Santanil Ganguly, founding members of Jhalapala, says, “Traditionally, Patachitra has never been an exclusively visual tradition; neither were the patas produced to be sold. For several centuries, it was a very vibrant performance tradition where the process of unfolding a vertical scroll painting was always complemented by storytelling, songs and music. In the 1970s however, with the advent of television, the performance element of the Patachitra tradition suffered a setback. In order to survive, the patuas began to sell their patas as independent works of art to the neo-urban collectors who patronised just the paintings. Consequently, the performative aspect of the pata tradition was nearly obliterated.” This project seeks to re-energise the performance element of the pata tradition by working with children of the patua families.
This project will engage young patuas in an exploration of their own performance tradition and enable them to create new performative pieces based on their world of imagination and folklore that they imbibe from their social and cultural environment. The storytelling and theatre workshops by the Jhalapala resource persons would help children create new stories and turn them into performances, thereby instilling in them the confidence to re-imagine the performative aspect of their own tradition. The workshop phase will also offer opportunities for exchange between the young patuas and young members of Jhalapala. Their diverse backgrounds and perspectives will not only enrich the project but will also bond the children in interesting ways. Soumik Nandy Majumdar, an expert on folk and traditional arts (working extensively in children’s theatre), will be a resource person for this project.
The workshops will take place primarily in two villages - Nayagram and Pingla in West Medinipore district in West Bengal. Both villages have long been home to the patua families and their rich tradition. Additionally, the Jhalapala team had worked with artists in these places during their earlier project, and hence have been able to build a good rapport over time. Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift in the field in terms of artists’ work processes. Several of them have increasingly begun to work with communities through interesting models of artistic collaborations that challenge skewed developmental models. This project is one such example of an artistic collaboration between an urban theatre group and a traditional artists’ community. The workshops will result in the creation of a performance along with a pata painting. The performance will travel to about 10 villages around Nayagram and Pingla.