They provide an intrinsic flavour to a destination’s local experience. But, the pandemic has rendered these daily wage earners without any means of support. Three experts share their views on the subject, while speaking about how they are playing a part in helping these artists survive during the ongoing pandemic.
It is an acceptable fact that they are an intrinsic part of the tourism industry. On the other hand, there are thousands of artists who directly as well as indirectly are dependent on the travel industry. They earn their income directly from international as well as domestic tourists. After the pandemic hit the world, the most affected were these artists as their livelihood was in shackles.
As an industry that needs revival, it becomes all the more imperative to offer support and uplift the artists economically. Similarly, initiatives need to be developed in their favour in which they are regularly involved and where they can offer their art knowledge and in turn earn from the same. Focusing on the traditional artists in Rajasthan, we speak to three experts from three different areas about how they are helping this community.
ASSOCIATION & AGENCY OWNER
As the Chairman for Western Region of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) as well as the CEO of Garha Tours & Travels which focuses completely on inbound tourism, NS Rathor understands the unique role that these local artists play in engaging tourists in Rajasthan. Sharing a slice of history, he says, “In the past, the local artists and craftsmen were patronised by the royal families. But after Independence, this community could not find many cheerleaders for themselves. However, since tourism started, the local artists have found favour in hotels of Rajasthan.”
These hotels usually host them in the evenings to entertain their guests whether in the form of dancers or puppet-masters who engross the guests with their story-telling skills. “Some of them are also on the hotel’s payroll. Since COVID-19 though, the artist community has been struggling. But, we hope the ongoing wedding season will revive them in a small way; they are an intricate part of tourism providing a local experience to tourists. It would be great if the state government can extend some financial support to them or launch a pension scheme for them,” Rathor adds.
Rajasthan Studio was established so that it could connect the master artists of Rajasthan to the tourists and promote their artforms. In April, it voluntarily offered assistance to all associated artisans and maestros, and kept the artists involved in all art activities. In some cases, it also remitted money directly to the artist. Kartik Gaggar, CEO and Founder, Rajasthan Studio, says, “Our focus was on ‘Vocal for Local’ promoting our artisans and their work. As soon as virtual interactions became a way of life during lockdown, we made most of it with our ‘virtual-only’ daily art experiences through our social media channels and connected with artists from all over the world.”
Aathun is another initiative born during the lockdown. It connects the folk artists of Rajasthan to people from across the world, via live sessions on YouTube. “The artist-to-audience live stream sessions are designed to financially enable the folk artists of Rajasthan. Audience can pay the artists as they like through UPI, Paytm, or G-Pay directly. We have curated more than 12 sessions with 12 unique artists. Our role is only to help them reach a larger audience. The direct beneficiaries were, are and will always be the artists,” Gaggar explains.
Four-year old Donatekart is an India-based platform that allows individuals to donate supplies needed to a charity instead of donating money. They have been actively helping the artist community all over India. Speaking specifically about Rajasthan, Anil Kumar Reddy, CEO and Co-founder, Donatekart, says, “We did two campaigns in support of the local folk artists of Rajasthan since COVID-19 hit us. I’m happy to say that we have collectively raised `55 lakh till now for Rajasthan folk artists and our aim is to raise `1 crore worth of ration which will support 10,000 families for the next six months. As we are an in-kind donation platform, people can only fulfil needs of the beneficiaries.” The organisation has done similar campaigns for Tamil Nadu folk artists, the handloom weavers in Telangana and the Bunkar community in Varanasi.
Rajasthan government to set up artists database
The state government has decided to make a database of artists through crowd-sourcing across Rajasthan. It will be the first state in the country to take this initiative.Mugdha Sinha, Secretary, Art and Culture Department and Director General, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, said that her department had launched the ‘Mukhyamantri Lok Kalakar Protsahan Yojana’ (Chief Minister’s Folk Artist Encouragement Scheme) in April 2020 to extend help to the artists. Details about the artists across the state will be collected through crowd-sourcing via Google Form. Genre of art form include performing arts, visual arts, literary arts, dyeing arts, wandering arts (ghoomantu), folk arts, tribal arts and others.