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Sienna – Best Handcrafted Items

Jael Silliman

The locality around Hindustan Park, just off busy Gariahat Road, is now home to several unique stores, trendy boutiques, art studios, cafes and restaurants.  The old homes, deep verandahs, large windows with wooden shutters and small courtyards on quiet tree-lined streets have an old-world charm.   It is increasingly the place to go for shoppers interesting in buying contemporary hand-crafted items based on traditional art techniques and enjoying the ambience.

Among the popular hang-out places for the young and trendy is Sienna Café.  Sienna sells hand-crafted-items and has a small café that serves delicious freshly cooked food from recipes curated by Pixie Rawat.  This weekend Sienna has introduced a few Chitpur Local products to its beautiful hand-made items items, and Pixie is busy developing a couple of offerings inspired by old Chitpur recipes.

In 2014 Sumona Chakravarty founded Hamdasti.  Trained in the arts, Sumona experimented to make art and design play a critical role in creating public platforms for dialogue, interaction, civic participation and social engagement.  Along with 10 artists, Hamdasti has worked with the local communities in the Chitpur area in North Calcutta, to document, revive and showcase their particular history much of it to do with print-making and publishing. This 'Bottola' locality was also known for jewelry making and bamboo crafts.

Hamdasti has integrated some of these print-making/print related arts into contemporary art and design forms.  In doing so they have captured forgotten local narratives, and engaged local people to activate cultural spaces for public art as an integral part of community life.  Chitpur Local has held workshops, exhibitions and art events including pop-up museums, a public game and an interactive travelling story box in Chitpur in festival like events that have brought outsiders and community members together to share various aspects of their heritage.

Sulajna Ghosh and Diya Katyal of Sienna see the items they have introduced by Chitpur Local to be consistent with Sienna’s commitment to revitalizing hand-made quality products and support for craftspeople and local communities.  Their unanimous favorite is the set of colorful matchboxes.  The boxes feature prints from the past from Bengali Jatras that are delightful and tongue-in-cheek.  These include: Haramer Kanna (Cries from the Harem), Kaalo Meye, Ranga Charan (A Dark Girls Crimson Dancing Feet), Desh Bechbo, Dalal Chai (I want to sell my country I need a broker), Bangali Aajo Kaande (Bengalis are still Lamenting).

There are also notebooks with colorful old poster prints on the covers, magnets made from old jewelry molds and the ubiquitous large and always useful jhola.  While these Chitpur products have a distinctive character they resonate with items that Sienna sells like the cotton handbags with Bengali quips like the untranslatable but evocative word “naka” on them.

Chitpore Local has also developed a set of card games and conducted a book binding demonstration at Sienna.

Stepping out of Sienna I was delighted to find another art exhibition being set up at Art Rickshaw by Calcutta Instagrammers https://www.instagram.com/ig_calcutta/?hl=en).  It is the largest instagrammer community in the City with 37k followers.  This virtual group of artists and photographers share their photos on their website.  The art exhibition was themed on photographs of Bengal and there were a number of evocative works on display that brought various aspects of the City to life: flooded streets, Puja festivities and intimate portraits of domestic spaces.  Artists shared their mobile phone photographs and their illustrations of the City.  The installations and exhibit runs till mid September.

In and around Hindustan Park is becoming a focal point for a lot of contemporary art activities - a creative hub of the City to watch.

Address: 49, Hindustan Park, Gariahat, Kolkata -700019. Ph: 033 4065 8123

Hours: 11:30 am–9:30 pm.  Instagram handle: @hamdasti