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Conservation of Traditional Arts, Crafts and culture Heritage, Tatas Way

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MUMBAI: The conservation efforts of various Tata companies and Tata Trusts in wildlife, the environment and ecology, and art and culture have spawned multi-hued programmes and projects that deliver tangible results in different regions and among different communities. The article explains where and how these initiatives have taken root.

“Without culture and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation of art is a gift to the future.” The meaning of these words said by Albert Camus, the Algerian-French writer and philosopher, are clear, as is the vitality that the freedoms fuelled by art and culture bring, the bonding between people that they encourage, and the awe they can evoke in human beings of disparate ethnicities and upbringing.

The magical is ever-present in all great art and the cultures from which they spring. Much less ubiquitous is the understanding, the backing and the encouragement required to ensure that such magic is not lost to future generations through neglect and apathy. This is a real concern as the march of modernity continues. It is the spur for initiatives such as those pursued with fervour by different Tata organisations in a wide range of areas — the conservation of traditional arts and crafts, the restoration of architectural showpieces and the revival of institutions and forms of music.

Tata and Tribal Art

Photo: Tata Group

TRIBAL INSTINCT
Tata Steel, Jharkhand and Odisha, India

Set up by Tata Steel in 1993, the Tribal Culture Society has been working to revive and preserve the traditions and ethos of the many tribal communities living near and about its facilities in Jharkhand and Odisha in eastern India. The society’s efforts take in the conservation of tribal cultural traditions in language, music and sport (see Tradition and the past get a timely boost on page 94) as also generating livelihood opportunities for tribespeople. The company supports a Tribal Culture Centre that promotes tribal handicrafts and lifestyle tools, and it hosts Samvaad, an annual gathering of tribal communities
from across India. Seen at right and below are images from the opening of Samvaad 2016 and, on the previous page, are members of the Rathwa tribe from Gujarat, India, performing at the festival.

HISTORY IN THE HERITAGE

Photo: Tata Group

HISTORY IN THE HERITAGE
Tata Trusts, Delhi, Hyderabad and Manipal, India

Helping with the conservation and restoration of historic monuments and places has been a constant theme with Tata Trusts. Under its conservation programme, it provides backing in protecting and preserving monuments and other historic treasures, and in enhancing public use of and access to the cultural heritage of the land. Support of the kind has benefited the restoration of the 16th century tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun in Delhi, the conservation of the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park in Hyderabad, and the creation of the Manipal Heritage Village (above).

SOUNDS OF TRADITION
Tata Trusts, Ahmedabad and Kutch, India

SOUNDS OF TRADITION

Photo: Tata Group

Music has been a pillar of India’s cultural heritage and traditional performing arts are a crucial part of that ethos. These arts have suffered a loss in popularity and patronage as new media and newer forms of entertainment strengthen their hold on the mass culture. The performing arts programme of Tata Trusts supports artistes in traditional musical forms, in dance and theatre. Examples include the effort to revive the musical traditions of the Kutch region and for the Saptak School of Music in Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

NO FADING AWAY

Photo: Tata Group

NO FADING AWAY
Tata Trusts, Chennai and Kolkata, India

The upkeep of culturally vital documents and manuscripts is a lesser-known part of Tata Trusts’ conservation agenda. This is especially important in the context of India, a country that seems to have a disregard for preserving written records of the past in good order. It’s a reality that is changing, though, with official agencies and entities such as Tata Trusts coming together to restore and safeguard texts and scripts from down the ages. Initiatives by the Trusts in this sphere include the digitisation of research resources at Jadavpur University in Kolkata; the ‘Mewar manuscript pilot conservation project’, under which a 17th-century manuscript of the Hindu epic Ramayana was restored; and the digitisation of material in the Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai, which has some 300,000 volumes of Tamil books, journals and newspapers.

THEATRE OF SKILLS

Photo: Tata Group

THEATRE OF SKILLS
GREATER SAGE GROUSE
Titan Company, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, India
Tata Chemicals North America, Wyoming, USA

Titan Company has since inception tried to connect with the community in meaningful ways through well-conceptualised initiatives in different areas. In conservation, it has been providing support in reviving the traditional craft of hand embroidery as practised in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu and in promoting theatre as an art form in a programme spread across Karnataka. In the Dharmapuri project, rural women have been encouraged — through an artisans’ association — to bring alive once again the exquisite skill of hand embroidery. The objective of the theatre initiative Ranga Shankara is to propagate the art form among the young through a slew of methods and programmes.

CRAFTING A FUTURE

Photo: Tata Group

CRAFTING A FUTURE
Tata Trusts, across India

The crafts sector is the largest source of employment in India after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 7 million families. The future is bleak for these families, grappling as they are with problems of access to customers and a limited ability to make high-quality, market-driven artefacts and sundry products. The crafts-based livelihood programme of Tata Trusts is
geared to tackle such issues by reviving languishing crafts and through pilot design projects, quality control, use of technology and the linking of artisans with domestic and export markets. The knowledge gained by way of the pilot models will be used to set up craft design and innovation hubs that can provide multiple inputs to craft communities.

The backing extended by Tata Trusts to tribal communities in the Dokra clusters of South Odisha exemplifies the approach to reviving the traditions of crafts while linking these to income generation. Arming these communities with the marketing and design capabilities necessary to supplement their metal craft skills is one objective here. The Dokra artisans live in remote areas. Distance from market makes them highly dependent on traders, dims their negotiation power and, consequently, drives them away from a skill handed down through the generations. Tata Trusts is looking to change this situation by equipping artisans with comprehensive marketing linkages, design capabilities, training and technology support. Crucially, the goal is to make the programme self-sustaining in the longer run.

MUSIC AS ELIXIR
Tata Capital, India

MUSIC AS ELIXIR

Photo: Tata Group

Tata Capital has thrown its weight behind helping Indian classical music flourish in the mainstream space. A component of the company’s Do Right initiative, this effort involves supporting musicians and musical traditions. Under the programme, established as well as budding musicians are provided a platform to showcase their talent. Among the famous artists who have been part of the programme are Zakir Hussain, Amjad Ali Khan, Vikku Vinayakram, Shankar Mahadevan and Shivkumar Sharma and his son, Rahul (seen below on left with his father).

A WEAVE IN TIME
Tata Trusts, Madhya Pradesh, India

A WEAVE IN TIME

Photo: Tata Group

India’s handloom census of 1995-96 counted 6.5 million people engaged in weaving and allied activities. This number declined to 4.3 million in the census of 2009-10, revealing an exodus that is worrying as much as saddening. Tata Trusts-supported Handloom School in Maheshwar (in the Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh) is an effort to stop a slide that has seen the country losing a multitude of handloom weavers to menial occupations, not to mention the erosion of a rich and unique handloom tradition.

The school is an ‘entrepreneur incubator for young weavers’, the first of its kind in India. It is focused on equipping young weavers with skills and experiences — in design, in marketing and finance, and in weaving — that can make them successful entrepreneurs.

(This has been firstly covered in Tata Review, January-March 2017*, for our readers and wider social benefit, we are publishing it with due credit to Tata Review. In the first article we have covered Tata initiatives on environment and ecological conservation(Editor)

Photo Credit: Tata Group

Also Read: Safeguarding natural ecosystems, Tatas Way

Also Read: To Preserve and Protect: Tatas Way of wildlife, environment and ecology conservation

the author

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