Kolkata based artist & designer, Gopal Poddar was always passionate about Indian Traditional art and culture. This even led him out of his home comfort at times and travel to interior parts of our country to explore the richness of these traditional art forms.
Being a Bengali brought up in Kolkata, Durga Puja held a special place in his heart! As a designing artist he started receiving offers from leading Durga Puja organizers in the city, to design and decorate theirs. While planning for them he saw himself drawing more and more inspiration from these traditional art forms. It is then he realized how much vitality these art forms held. So much so that it retained its originality yet was as meaningful in contemporary settings.
Having widely traveled he had seen how the artisans who practiced these were themselves unaware of its richness. Hence they had no understanding of its commercial value. Consequently they remained very poor and moves on to look for alternate source of livelihood. These factors pose a serious threat of extinction of certain art forms.
By then, Gopal was already motivated by the cause of preservation of these art forms and helping these artisans. He saw getting them to Kolkata during Pujas to incorporate their art forms in these theme Pujas was a way to keep the art alive while they simultaneously earned a living through it.
In the year 2000, it struck him that he alone cannot make as big a difference in support of this cause. Thus came the thought of an organization that will support these art forms by preserving, nurturing and marketing them. This he decided will be a nonprofit body dedicated to the cause.
In 2002 he met Sonali Chakraborty. What struck him about her was the fact that though she herself wasn’t an artist she was extremely compassionate about the cause. Cupid struck and they decided to tie the knot! But their marriage was not exactly agenda less. Gopal found an ideal partner in Sonali to take forward his belief in the cause. In the same year they came together to form this organization called AIM::Art Illuminates Mankind.
Art Illuminates Mankind (AIM) is a society registered under West Bengal Registration Act XXVI of 1961, established in 2003. A grass root level social enterprise, and a welfare organization envisioning holistic encouragement of artisan’s creative capacity. AIM believes that each artisan, each art form and tradition has vitality worth celebrating. AIM’s initiatives have been designed to give these artisans access and control over a significant financial resource. The endeavour is not just about creating and selling handcrafted products. The foundation of the programme is AIM’s commitment to empower rural and tribal women, both economically and socially, and enhancing their self esteem. AIM is a member of Fair Trade Forum India, Craft mark, Silk Mark and Export Promotion Council of India.
AIM regularly promotes and nurtures various art forms by training artisans and honing their skills through various livelihood programmes of Indian/State Govt. This also helps the artisans in finding a livelihood through their art form. These trainings are held at Moram.
MORAM is AIM’s training cum production center located near Shantiniketan. Here SC/ST women artisans work regularly towards creating various hand-crafted products. This is also a promotional set-up for Handicrafts by rural Artisans & Folk Performers of Bengal. It is a beautifully landscaped area with a Craft Center, Handicraft Training Institute & Common Facility Center for Folk & Tribal Performing Arts. It hosts a Craft Shop, Eco-Friendly Cottages, Organic Farms and many more attractions. In this facility, ‘AIM’ is working with more than 2500 artisans under Livelihood Training for the Artisans in association with Backward Classes Welfare Department, Tribal Welfare Department, Govt. of West Bengal.
- Organized “MithilaUtsav” at Kanishka Art Gallery, Kolkata to promote various art& craft forms of Bihar including Madhubani Paintings, Sujni, Sikki Grass, Paper Masche, Kasida etc.
- Documentation on Dokra craft of Bastar(C.G) followed by an exhibition on Brass Metal sculpture along with performing arts of Bastar at Kanishka art gallery, Kolkata.
- Documentation on street painter of Kolkata using Madhubani Painting, Papier Mache Work, Beaten Metal Work, Woodcarving of Burdwan & scroll Pattachitra at Durga Puja Pandal Decoration in Kolkata.
- Organised ‘ROSHNI’, a training programme on women empowerment at Howrah on hand made paper- novelty items making.
- Utilitarian of the art and Artisan to give them economic support like – mud-mirror work of Traditional Pithoro Painting of Gujarat, Kalighat Painting and woodcarvings of Burdwan , The Bamboo work of South-Dinajpur, Terra-cotta work and Scroll Pattachitra of Purulia, Orissa Palmleaf and Tasar Painting at Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata.
- Opening “Gallery AIM” a value driven nonprofit making outlet for the communities of the Crafts people from all over India at Swabhumi.
- Conducted an exhibition of Brass metal craft of Bastar (C.G.), and another exhibition, Shilpakarma 05-06 on folk and tribal art and craft from all over India.
- Promotional work on Traditional art & craft from various part of India using at Durga Puja Pandal at Kalamkari Paintion of Andhra Pradesh, Warli Painting of Maharastra, Mud-relief work of Sarguja, District of C.G.
- Health awareness camp for women at Kadapara slum area Kolkata.
- Handicraft exhibition at Mayapur Isckon Temple ground at Gour Purnima Festival.
- Decoration, exhibition live demonstration in ‘Ethnoland Festival’ at Moscow in Russia for 2 months by 12 selected artisans of AIM.
- An exhibition and live demonstration at Swabhumi on Bengal craft and ‘Chou Dance’ of Purulia. Another exhibition of craft from different districts of West Bengal and performance of ‘Gambhira’ from Malda at Swabhumi
- An awareness programme on Health Insurance among 200 potters at Saheb Bagan Kolkata.
- A training programme for women at Kadapara slum area on handicraft novelty and utility items.
- Participation at ‘Times Kolkata Festival’ with artisans from different districts of West Bengal.
- Launching a Website: http://www.aimindia.org.in
- Issuing artisan cards with other facilities for the potters ofSahebbagan, Kolkata , Scroll PataChitra painters of Midnapur and SHGs of Barrackpore
- Handicraft training cum workshop programme for the poor, underprivileged Muslim women at Barrackpore, supported by NABARD.
- Participation in NABARD Utsav at Delhi Haat,
- Participation in Women Utasav organised by NABARD
- Display of traditional art & craft from various part of India using at Durga Puja Pandal like Blue Pottery & Meenakari work from Rajashthan and wooden toys from Shantipur etc.
- Issuing artisan cards with other facilities for the embroidery artisan of Baduria, North 24 Pgs.
- Continuation of training cum workshop programme on handmade paper products for the women artisans at Barrackpore , supported by NABARD
- Organizing three months exhibition at Bangur Art Gallery, Kolkata
- Participation in SARAS Fair at Mumbai sponsored By NABARD
- Organizing KarigarHaat grand and Ethnic fair representing exquisite handicraft and handloom, performing arts, Culture, foods etc. of various states and Union Territories of India.
- Organizing Kolkata Haat, weekend carnival of colorful India with an initiative to promote Art and Culture from various parts of the country.
- Conducted programme on Ceramic Design Development in Kolkata.
- Participated in 6th Women Entrepreneur Trade Expo (Dosti-WETEX 2009)in Bangladesh
- Organized KarigarHaat in Kolkata and introduced Karigar Swikriti Award.
- Organized fashion show (Bentex 9) that highlighted the glory of handloom and khadi dresses.
- Popularized the Terrakota art Pudducottai in Kolkata.
- Popularized Kangra Painting in Kolkata,
- Participated in Hazaarduari Utsav, organized by West Bengal
- Tourism Department, in collaboration with West Bengal Minorities Development and Finance Corporation.
- Published Craft Directory and Craft Map of NABARD.
- Conducted Design Development programme on Ceramic in Chaltaberia, Duttapukur, North 24 Pgs,
- Action research on NRM based livelihood on Eri silk at aila affected Sundarban
- Opening a new direct permanent Marketing outlet for the artisan members of AIM , “Karigarline” at Dakshinapan, Kolkata.
- Research & documentation on Sanjhi art, Mathura
- Organized Karigar Haat with the theme of Save Tiger & Save Sundarban.
- Organized Handicraft DC(H)EXHIBITION(Dhakuria, Kolkata) and DC(H)CRAFT BAZAR(Salt Lake).
- Organized KarigarHaat at Salt Lake with the theme of SAVE THE GIRL CHILD.
- Organized KOLKATA HAAT at New Market,
- Organized NABARSER HULOOR at CITY CENTER, Salt Lake
- In February 2011 AIM initiated Karigarline, Direct Marketing Platform for Handicraft and Handloom artisans of India. The objective of the project is to promote handicraft and to give regular marketing support to Handicraft items manufactured by beneficiaries working in remote areas. It is situated at Dakshinapan, Dhakuria, Kolkata . The place is highly popular for high end buyers, and foreign visitors.
MORAM: Return to Nature & Tradition
Our village development programmers through Art & Craft are creating awareness among the surrounding villagers. They are actively participating into the construction of our craft center. A group of University students came from California, USA to study and research about the activities of Moram and its artisans. After the visit they have opened a website http://www.runningstitch.org on Kantha, leather and other artist of “Moram”. The workshop center, hostel, Guest house for the visitors are about to finish.
ROOT: A Publication wing of AIM :
We observed the World Puppet Day (March 21) by launching a book on this dying art form called Banga Desher Putul Natya Kala by Subho Joardar. Puppets from three districts were also showcased to highlight the once -popular art form. The occasion also marked the debut of ROOTS – the publication wing of AIM that will help in documentation of folk culture – their arts and crafts which are on the brink of extinction.
ROOTS will further help in augmenting the cause of AIM whose vision is to study and research folk culture, tribal art and craft and to bring the people of tribal societies to limelight. The study and research is required to preserve and sustain the folk culture. For documentation purposes now AIM has its own publication house ROOTS which will be publishing books and journals related to folk culture. ROOTS made its debut on the eve of World Puppet Day with the release of five books including the one on puppets. The other books released were – Adibasi Lokkatha by Dibyojyoti Majumdar, Lokgaan by Leena Chaki, and Kansa Shilpa by Deepak Biswas.
The puppeteers who showcased their arts were Basanta Ghorui from Purba Medinipur who works with glove puppet (Beneputul), Krishnapada Sarkar from Nadia who works with string puppet and Prabhanjan Bairagifrom 24- Pgs(S) who uses rod puppets.
- Art of Banga
- Baul Chhou Festival
- Karigar Haat
- Handicraft Exhibition sponsored by DC Handicraft
- Exhibition by Karigarline
While it’s easy to state Gopal Poddar & Sonali Chakraborty’s Journey in pieces of paper, in reality none of it was easy. They have come to believe that these challenges are what have made their journey worth it. What has won the day is their sense of integrity and unwavering dedication to the cause. All these led to the birth of DESHAJ. It has come as an assurance that finally they could set up a sustainable program for these rural artisans which will keep providing an employment to them while preserving these art forms.
DESHAJ is the brand initiative that has been undertaken by AIM to introduce traditional Indian-styled fabric, apparel & accessories with an innovative outlook. It represents the eco-friendly; organic, indigenous textile based Arts and Crafts. The products are produced in the AIM’s development center, Moram at Bolpur. The project involves the noble objective of providing high-skill industry level training to SC/ST communities with a rural and disadvantageous background. At present, more than 2000 rural women are benefiting from this program, with a goal of reaching 5,000 over the next three years.
Not only employment they are very focused on taking the development to a whole new phase by providing for better Health, Sanitation, Hygiene and education for these people and keep their progress at par with global development.
However to achieve them they will need much more than your good wishes! If you feel you can contribute to the cause in any way, Please feel free to contact