They are young, educated, creative, ambitious and above all determined – determined to see their ancient, traditional art form continues to bloom. And generate decent income for poor villagers from Mithila region of Bihar.
Happy that Madhubani paintings, a traditional artform from Bihar, is in fact now doing well, what with the publicity and encouragement the art has got from across the globe, the Karn sisters – Shishu Suman and Chetna Karn — hailing from Jitwarpur village of Madhubani district, have gone one step ahead.
They formed a business model by building the entire chain – production (painters from their village and surrounding areas), marketing and sales – and built a brand – Madhubani Motifs in Pune. Within a short time, it clicked, after their focused digital campaign hit the bull’s eye and the nascent company gained eager and satisfied customers not just from India but also from across the world.
Belonging to a family of renowned award-winning painters, surrounded by paints, brushes and easels when growing up, it was difficult not to dabble in the art. “We did not have to do anything special to acquire drawing and painting skills. These were something we thought everyone did routinely, automatically and naturally as everyone around us was doing,” Shishu Suman, told Tricity Scoop.
“Once we completed our studies, me and Chetna landed in software jobs in Pune, and it is there we thought of organising selves and other painters, and leverage our their knowledge, advantages of living in a happening city, and do everything we could to better the lives of fellow artisans back home,” she said.
In fact, their father, Shivshankar Lal Das, a very good painter himself, had to do clerking in a local office for a living, as “it was impossible to make a living from the art. There were no buyers in villages and going to towns to sell paintings was extremely difficult, and costly as well,” Shishu said recalling the struggles of her father. Today her father is a deed writer in the registry office in Madhubani.
“This is perhaps why he insisted on good education for all of us,” Shishu said and added “his foresight, determination and perseverance have paid off, with the way our life has now turned out.” Today, the duo is employed with software firms in Pune, but are working from home in Madhubani. And along with their office work, they also mobilise the other women painters in the neighbourhood and involve them in the Madhubani Motif work.
All along their life, the duo never left the art, they picked up from their father and their grandmother, Shashi Kala Devi, who was a master craftsperson, and adept at Mithila and Godhna paintings, for which she won state government awards too.
“My paternal uncle, Krishna Kumar Kashyap, who has contributed a lot to Mithila painting and has several books to his credit, has been an inspiration to all of us,” Shishu said. He actually learnt the art from his wife, Shiva Kashyap, who in turn was a disciple of my grandmother, she said.
With such a rich inheritance of art and craft, it was only natural for these educated, confident and ambitious youngsters to go for their dream – of making their father’s dream come true. “My father is the biggest influence in our lives, and the sacrifices he made for getting us educated, we only know how he managed,” Shishu said. It feels nice to be able to do our little bit to carry the family legacy forward.
“Knowing, understanding and learning to speak English was such a big deal growing up and one of the biggest challenges we faced as kids growing up in Madhubani,” Shishu said. For her, and many like her, English is to be revered as the rojgaar ki devi.
“On the Madhubani Motif, it all started with an Instagram post,” recalled Shishu and said, soon the power of social media did the rest. Starting with a couple of followers, the Insta page today has over 26,000 followers. Then there is a Facebook page too, with pictures and videos of our work on display, and these are drawing enthusiastic responses from customers from everywhere, she said.
“Our intention is to ensure the artists, hailing from poor backgrounds, get remunerative price for their art, skill and craft, and this is the motive behind Madhubani Motif,” Shishu said.
Going by the response, the duo seems to have hit the bull’s eye. Ache din for Madhubani painters?
Possible, if the momentum, and good luck continues.