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Banglanatak.com – Making Change Using Culture As A Tool

Piu Sur

She was sitting there engrossed in the colored threads she stitched on the piece of cloth. In fact she hardly noticed me as I stood there and watched her patience and skill. When she did look up and saw me she smiled and asked me if there is something I wanted to buy.

I was passing by the stalls in the art and craft mela but had stopped to watch this lady at work. From the range of beautiful colored things on display I chose to buy from her a silk embroidered shawl, some designed saris, scarves and a couple of bags. She gave me a stool to sit on and that is when we started to talk.

She was from a near-by village called Nanur but that did not keep her from traveling. Recently she had been to Goa and Bombay and spoke about the good response to her work and how it got sole very quickly. In her conversation she mentioned her village and how the others from that locality had organized themselves into a cooperative and sold this exclusive handwork all across the globe.

It was she who mentioned banglanatak.com as the group which supported their activity and that took me to the banglanatak.com office in Lake Gardens, Kolkata. I was fascinated to hear that banglanatak.com is a social enterprise working across India with a mission to foster inclusive and sustainable development using culture-based approaches and working for protection of rights of women, children and indigenous people. The areas that they worked for were interesting −  Development Consulting, Art for life, Musical, Toureast and C4D – social and behavior change communication specializing in use of Theater in development-based methodology for public education and empowering men, women and the youth to be change-makers in their own communities.

The lady from Nanur whom I met in the fair was a part of banglanatak.com initiative Art  For Life which has evolved the process of art and culture-led rural development and established working models that have helped community artists to gain recognition, improve socio-economically, safeguarded art forms and transformed marginalized villages to cultural destinations.

Learning about their Akhra@Baitanik I one day landed up at Baitanik, 4 Elgin Road in Kolkata and really enjoyed the music I listened to that was different and was rooted to the culture we know from our childhood. It was truly an attempt in creating opportunities for the rural folk- communities and urban youth, in presenting World Music and in exploring creative entrepreneurship. I came to know that banglanatak.com encouraged and supported capacity building in enhancing both artistic and art managerial skills, encourage and promote artists participation in festivals, support musicians exchange with international artists, assist in getting the artists linked directly to their respective markets. (for more details one could explore www.bncmusical.com or email them at musical@banglanatak.com).

I came across publications that documented oral traditions. There were books of Baul and Jhumur songs and recordings of 1,500 folk songs which were made available along with 45 music albums and a few folk documentaries.

In times ahead I plan to try out their TourEast destinations. These destinations have been nurtured as part of the Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs (RCCH), an initiative of the Govt. of W. Bengal’s Department of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. As a hardware partner of the project, West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board (WBKVIB) has developed Folk Art Centers in these villages, which also have furnished rooms for tourists. It will be very interesting to visit villages having their annual village mela celebrating their heritage. UNWTO endorsed this model of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) based tourism in 2015 and showcased this as a best practice for sustainable and responsible tourism at the ITB in Berlin, 2017.

In the coming year, 2018, I am also looking forward to their hugely popular global music scene world peace music festival − Sur Jahanas (which began as Sufi Sutra which I had attended) in Kolkata 2-4 Feb and Goa 7-9 Feb. In case you might want to join me, here are the contact details of banglanatak.com.

Address: 188/89, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Kolkata – 700045

Phone: 91-33-40046564 email: banglanatak@gmail.com