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Conservation meets traditional art - with corporate help

Delhi,Business/Economy,Environment/Wildlife, Sat, 21 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) Conservation and wildlife are meeting the arts and traditional crafts of India to spread a powerful green message in the country. And the movement is roping in corporates and conservation agencies.


"We have been engaging with the arts for many years. Artists have painted for us and collaborated with us. At a local level, we have helped villagers find markets for their traditional crafts and art in various community-based initiatives," Ravi Singh, CEO of Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)-India, told IANS.


One of the significant WWF projects in Rajasthan has been a collaboration with the Ranthambore school of tiger art - to promote paintings of tigers bought from them, Singh said.


Located a couple of kilometres from Sawai Madhopur as you approach the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the school recruits students from adjacent towns and villages to teach them to draw and paint tigers - and spread the message of conservation. The art is sold for Rs.1,000 to Rs.75,000.


WWF-India has launched similar art and crafts-based intervention projects to involve the grassroots in conservation in Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.


In the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, it works with the Tharu tribals to promote their traditional woven "dari" or rugs, said Dipankar Ghosh, director of species and landscape programmes at WWF-India.


"In Sikkim, we invited children to draw the state animal, the red Panda, in its habitat, by encouraging them to visit the zoo. A pan-Sikkim painting competition produced the drawings of pandas in a variety of habitats. We did not sell the art but made posters and postcards from the drawings and circulated them in schools across Sikkim. It made a change," Ghosh told IANS.


An exhibition titled "Conservation on Canvas", an initiative of WWF-India and Religare Art, which opened at the Taj Palace Hotel here Tuesday, is an example of how contemporary art is playing with eco-conservation with help of corporates and NGOs.


The proceeds from the exhibition featuring 30 artists will go to the WWF for conservation projects.


Delhi-based artist Antonio Puri, who grew up in the Himalayas, the US and Europe, explores the concept of "regeneration through destruction" in his new semi-abstract painting 'Agni', a deconstructed image of the forest fire, which he believes is important for the forest to sprout again.


"The seeds have to burn down for the nutrients to go back to the soil. Everyone is talking about going green, but I don't think anyone is looking at the planet; we are looking at taking care of ourselves. Humans are insecure. I want to bring back the consciousness that the planet is more important," Puri told IANS.


Artist Sumakshi Singh observes that "India, culturally, is ready to shift into the phase of materialism and consumerism which will have an impact on environment".


"Often when you look at images around you, it seems that nature does a bunch of recycling from the cell to the galaxy to the universe. I try to capture this thread running to natural and cosmic orders," Singh told IANS.


Artist Sanjay Bhattacharya's recent water colour compositions in monochrome colour palettes, have been inspired by his visits to the Corbett National Park.


"However, the river Ganga is my favourite subject," Bhattacharya told IANS.


Indian art has been historically inspired by nature, but its depiction by medieval and British India artists has large chronicles of landscapes and life.


With rising awareness about the greenhouse effect since the 1990s, contemporary art has opened a dialogue with viewers to address the concern through gallery shows and multi-media public projects.


Corporate houses also have a stake in promoting green art.


Amit Swarup, president of Religare Art, said: "Sponsoring collaborative projects with a cause improves a company's corporate branding; though the firm does not make much money, the costs are taken care of."


"The Taj Group of Hotels, which promotes green art and crafts, has adopted a Benarasi sari weavers' village near Varanasi where poor artisans were reduced to selling blood for a living," Taljinder Singh, general manager of Taj Palace Hotel, told IANS.


The village now rears its own silk worms. The weavers have been restored to their natural environment with the help of the group, which buys silk for them and has hired a designer to help them make innovative saris for women working on the front desk of the group's hotels, Singh said.


(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at


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