Bihar’s Madhubani artists get poor returns

November 14th, 2007 - 2:04 am ICT by admin  
Darbhanga, Oct.11 (ANI): Madhubani paintings have been patronised by the elite for decades, but the artists are a frustrated people. iddlemen and traders have been exploiting them and the painters receive little money for their labour. It has literally become a labour of love for them.

Madhubani art is actually Mithila art as it belongs to Mithila region of Bihar. It is regarded to be one the best known genres of Indian folk paintings in the country.

The middlemen and traders collect the paintings from them and the painters do not know how it is sold and for how much. etween the middlemen and traders, a virtual mafia is operating. It has taken control of their artworks. The artists no longer want to continue with their profession.

The prices for the standard 22 x 30 inch paintings displayed at the Bihar Emporium mostly ranges rupees 650 to 1,500. ut the dealers purchase the works from the artists in and around Madhubani for about rupees 200 or less and sell them at rupees 1,200 to 2,600.

Artists lament that though everyone knows about the exploitation, nothing is being done by authorities to help them. For the past 15 to 16 years we have been doing this work, but the Government has stopped giving travelling or dearness allowances. he middleman comes and takes away the paintings. We have to plead for payments. We do not feel like carrying on the work further,” said Asha Devi, an artist.

For generations, the women of Mithila have decorated their house walls with intricate, linear designs on the occasion of marriages and other ceremonies.

Painting, in fact, forms a key part of the Mithila women’s education, culminating in the painting of the walls of the Kohbar or, nuptial chamber on a wedding.

It is said that colours and creativity with paintbrush is in the veins of women in Mithila. Though, there enthusiasm to make these paintings is on a sharp decline.

For instance, the art circuit in Delhi and also the commercial studios are dominated by so-called Mithila Godana paintings that usually consist of small repetitive designs. These are said to be based on tattoos.

They are almost always painted on top of a light brown cow-dung wash spread over the soft white handmade paper. In general, these paintings, and other more traditional styles, seem crudely executed, and mass produced, even by hand.

Many apparently come at little or almost no cost from short-term Government sponsored training programmes.

“The Government is not paying any attention to the middlemen. They sell the artists’ products on their own. But with such mean acts, the artists stop making anything,” said Mahasundari Devi, famous Madhubani artist and winner of National and State Awards.

Rural Development Board, however, claims that their organisation is aiming at providing raw material to the artists at the lowest minimum prices and even facilitating painting exhibitions for artists.

“These women come here and design the clothes. The raw material is provided by the organisation. Different rates have been fixed for different varieties of designs like rupees 1,000 for silk cloth, rupees 700 for cotton spun and rupees 200 for duppatta,” said Rakesh Jha, Programme co-ordinator of Rural Development Board in Bihar.

“Then we take these products for exhibition on behalf of the organisation and sell at good prices. Moreover, we sell it to the foreigners coming here,” Jha added.

The authorities concerned say that self help groups (SHGs) have been asked to come forward, form a federation and market their product.

“We agree that there are some unscrupulous elements in the society and they try to take over the market. But we have asked these self help groups to form an independent federation and collect their produce at one place, sell and market them on their own,”said Upendra Kumar, Deputy Development Commissioner of Darbhanga. (ANI)

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