Via The Alternative
…Potli, an organisation with a mandate to introduce and educate children about traditional Indian art forms through simple, do-it-yourself activity kits. On offer are over 7 different kinds of art kits (Santhal, Madhubani, Gond, Patua, Chittara, and Warli) and 3 craft kits (bead craft, shell craft, and hand blockprinting).
Sisters Pooja Ratnakar and Payal Nath, the brains behind Potli, discovered the need to educate children about native art as a result of their work with Kadam, an organisation focusing on capacity building among rural artisans. “We work with artisans across Orissa and West Bengal. One of the biggest challenges we faced while marketing their products was the lack of awareness. We thought the best way to go about this is to educate children. If we were exposed to these art forms right from childhood, we would not be alien to our own culture”, says Pooja explaining their choice of target audience.
Catering to an age group infamous for limited attention span is tricky business and Indian art has always been cloaked in staid Khadi. Pooja and Payal decided that the first order of business was to infuse fun into the learning process. Their kits are as easy to use as the popular paint-by-number ones, and come with recipes for making your own natural dyes. Pooja argues that these art forms suit children naturally. “Most folk art is very close to nature and inspired by it. They are very similar to what children would naturally do as a regular part of village life; something each person starts in their childhood. It’s not developed, like say, tanjore paintings. We also wanted to connect both ends of the spectrum – the artist and the child, through expression and not just library like research”.
Given that these kits are meant to be educational, each kit contains information about the art form, a ready reckoner, if you will. Pooja and Payal spend time researching the form in depth before offering it to their customers. “We identify the village where the art form originated or is at least still practiced and zero in on a reputed artist. We travel to the village and spend time there learning everything we can.” Artists like Baua Devi, an 86 year old doyen of Madhubani and Ishwar Naik, renowed theatre personality and well know Chittara artist, have served as advisors to Potli.