Sunday, October 24, 2010

Manu mixes clay and sunshine

Dastkari Haat Samiti has created a set of four beautiful books, which showcase the traditional arts and crafts of India. The stories are set in rural artisans' families and give a wonderful glimpse into their daily life. They have been published by Puffin Books.

Title - Manu mixes Clay and Sunshine
Author -Bulbul Sharma
Illustrator - Shanti Devi
Ages - 6 to 9 years

In this book the author Bulbul Sharma takes us through Manu's life, who belongs to a potter's family. The entire family gets involved through the various stages from the collection of clay to churning out beautiful painted pots. The children contribute in their own little ways and it is a matter of pride when the grown ups consider them old enough to handle a task by themselves! The book is very enlightening in the sense they take us through the entire process of how the pots are made but not in a boring way. The story of Manu's life and the facts are quite beautifully interwoven.

The illustrations by Shanthi Devi, an accomplished Madhubani style artist, are a treat to the eyes. Madhubhani painting is named after the district of Madhuban (forest of honey) where along with neighbouring district of Darbhanga, in the Mithila region of Bihar, it is practised.

Title - Biju Spins Some Magic
Author - Jaya Jaitly
Illustrator - Bhramara Nayak
Ages - 7 to 10 years

Biju is a little boy who lives in a small village of Orissa. They are a family of weavers, who weave some of the most beautiful Ikat saris. It is interesting to read how the grandpa of the family teaches little Biju simple maths with their skeins. As in the earlier story, we realise how each member of the family plays an important role in the complete process of weaving - collecting the cotton fluffs, spinning them into yarn, dyeing and finally the laborious task of weaving the intricate patterns on the saree. It makes us a trifle sad when Biju realises that his own mother does not wear any of these beautiful silk sarees because they cannot afford it.

Biju is taken along with his father on one of his trips to New Delhi, where they hope to sell their sarees directly to interested customers. The awe of being in a city, the shyness of the village boy, then the joy of discovering a spinning wheel (as a toy in a rich boy's house) and showing his expertise to the wonder struck city boy make a very nice story.

Patachitra, the traditional art form of Orissa, has been used for the illustrations. The beautiful big and expressive eyes seem very distinct in this art form.

Title - Mumtaz Embroiders Her Dreams
Author - Jolly Rohatgi
Illustrator - Ram Soni
Ages - 7 to 10

In this book the story takes us into the bylanes of Lucknow, so famous for the chikankari embroidery, commonly known as the "Chikan" work. In the festive atmosphere of Id when everyone is happy and celebrating with their family, Mumtaz feels sad as she is quite lonely. She has been brought here from another town where her mother and sisters live. Famed for her embroidery work that runs in her family, she is brought to Lucknow to help her aunt with the chikan work on the fabrics, which earn them some decent money for survival.

Crippled on foot, but deft with her hands Mumtaz befriends a boy Munnu. With this newly acquired friendship, magic in her hands and vivid imagination, how does Mumtaz transform her destiny ? Read the book to find it out !

The illustrations have been done in a unique style called sanjhi, which is the art of paper cutting. So the images are like various paper cuttings blended so beautifully to form the big picture. The books mentions that this is the first time sanjhi art has been used to illustrate a book. I found this very interesting and in my mind visualised lot of craft activities that can be done with the children based on this art form. Here is an article that I found on Ram Soni, the artist behind the magical illustrations of this book.

Title - Bulli and the Tiger
Author - Shalini Reys
Illustrator - Nankusiya Shyam
Ages - 7 to 10 years

Bulli's story is set in a village of Assam. With bamboo everywhere around them and in their homes too, the family is into weaving bamboo baskets. The struggles and challenges faced by their father in marketing the baskets, troubles Bulli too. Meanwhile Bulli's grandpa tells the story of how the guardian tiger of the hills helped the people to engage in a livelihood of weaving baskets with the abundant bamboo groves.

Bulli, in her quest to help her father acquire more bamboo, ventures into the forest. The adventures of Bulli in the forest form the rest of the interesting story. The lifestyle of the people in the hills has been very well presented in this book by the author Shalini Reys.

The illustrations are in one of my favourite art forms of India - Gond Art. Nankusiya Shyam is a renowned Gond artist and her signature style is very evident in the lovely paintings. (On a side note for people interested in Gond Art, I would highly recommend this book by Tara publication called Signature - Patterns in Gond Art.)

Each of these books reviewed is a gem and worth collecting for your own home library !

Pics source : Flipkart


Unknown said...

wow!! what a great collection of books crocus is churning out :)
I love these series. Where can i buy these???

Sheela said...

How wonderful, R, that you have shared these treasures! The cover artwork is simply gorgeous on all four books you've presented here. Pottery, Weaving, Chikan-work Embroidery, Basket-weaving... specialized skills indeed... and thanks for the peek into Madhubani, Patachitra, Sanjhi and Gond art via this beautiful set of book!

artnavy said...

Lovely. I need to get these. Flipkart is going to be loaded with requests!!

ranjani.sathish said...

Hi MindfulMeanderer !
Thank you.Either you can order them through flipkart or if you are in Bangalore, I suggest you try the new Penguin India book shop in MG Road. Since this is their publication, you might get it there.

Sheela, thanks ! Glad you liked the series.

Art : Thanks :-)

sandhya said...

It is wonderful how the Dastakari Haat Samiti has given us these books featuring four crafts intertwined with illustrations in four indigeneous art forms.

Traditional crafts in India were family businesses, where the children apprenticed from a very young age in the easiest of activities, before graduating to the more complex ones. In a way, the spread of education in its contemporary form is bringing an end to all this, except in certain places. More so because these crafts are slowly dying out due to underpaid artisans- as Biju discovers that his mother cannot afford to wear the beautiful saris he has helped in making. Sad. But thanks to organisations like the Dastakari Samiti, and others like SEWA, etc., these crafts are being revived, with artisans getting their fair share of the money, instead of being exploited.

A wonderful review, Ranjani.

Vibha said...

Loved the concept of the books, the different art forms used in the books for illustrations and most of all your review of all these books.
Wanted to order thro' flipkart will try the Penguin India on MG road.

Anusha said...

the wealth of art is humbling and now that it is all being brought into the limelight, there's no stopping the heights and spread these will reach.
excellent picks, R and thank you for sharing with us.

Vibha said...

Not available on Flipkart :(

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

Fabulous !! Thanks Rajini for sharing these ... the series is just awesome !

utbtkids said...

Ranjani this is love at first sight for me.

Coming from a family of weavers, I can so relate to Biju's story. My father's cousins weave silk sarees. I have seen first hand how my second cousin's and their children helped roll the yarn, dye it and spin after their school. I so understand the point that no one in the family affords to wear the beautiful sarees they weave. It is an irony that one has to break out of the weaving family and get employment doing something else in order to be able to afford the silk sarees.

sathish said...

utbt, thanks for that wonderful comment.

Look forward to an hopeful India where weavers,artisans do not have to leave their loved profession to buy their own product!

Ranjani, this is set is amazing. Need to pick it up again from the library.

Choxbox said...

Lovely picks yet again Ranjani. We had got them just after we moved to India and were totally awed by them.

And yes Pageturners (the Penguin store on M G Road) does have these books, recently picked them for a friend from there.

Praba Ram said...

Lovely set of book giving a neat glimpse into the core of India and her crafts. Goosebumps.

A simple and straightforward review with the signature Ranjani style stamped all over. Love it! :)

The Sanjhi papercutting art was in particular very enlightening.

Meera Sriram said...

Ranjani, where do you find these (rhetorically and literally)?!

Amazing! Can't say more.

Anonymous said...

What a great sounding series!... Another great series about art is Anjali Raghbeer's "Looking at Art" series, wouldn't you say?

Aline Pereira/PaperTigers said...

My previous comment got posted as anonymous, for some reason, so I'm trying again...

Choxbox said...

@Aline: Hi!

The Looking at Art series has been reviewed in ST - here’s the link:

sandhya said...

Thanks for the info, Chox. Will make a trip to Pageturners soon. Maybe club it with trip to Blossoms?

Tharini said...

Wow Ranjani...I don't know what I want get hold of each of these crafts and cloths for myself or get ahold of these books that feature them! Your review is just as beautiful as the finished product that I visualise!

Maya said...

I love love LOVE these books. The illustrations and everything about it. Was so happy to see them featured on your blog. Read them because we had English copies of the book in our office. But guess what? Pratham Books is doing the translations for these books (in Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telegu). And we will have the English copies too. We've just placed the order for the prints of these books.... So, yayyyyyy! Hope to see all of you in our office soon :).

Pssst: You guys are the first ones we've told :)

sandhya said...

Marathi? Hopping over to the Pratham office as soon as they are out!

sathish said...

Maya, that is great to hear. wow. I will tell about it to a few of my friends too.

Kosalai said...

Interesting books Ranjani. It will be big change (and refreshing too) of subjects at home. Any idea how to get them in Chennai (Land mark says out of stock).

ranjani.sathish said...

Sandhya, Vibha, KM, CA, Tharini, Aline, Chox, Sathish : Thank you so is really nice that you all found this series very interesting !

Utbt : That's very interesting personal info..thanks for sharing it here.

Praba : Ranjani style? What would that be ?!!

Meera: I vaguely remembered these series from having seen them somewhere...and as we were discussing for CROCUS, they suddenly came to my mind and I started hunting for them in the libray and felt elated that all the 4 books were available !

Maya : Great to know that these books are coming out in the regional languages and thank you so much for mentioning it here in ST space :-)

Kosi : Thank you ! Check flipkart or else I will see if I can get them when I come to Chennai next.

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