A Fellowship Program That Will Take You Closer To The Beautiful Rural Craft Traditions In India

Posted on August 4, 2014 in Culture-Vulture

By Rachita Gupta:

The UN World Programme for Action for Youth (WPAY) states that full and effective participation of young people in the society and decision-making processes is a priority area of action to address global poverty. Furthermore, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), maintains that young people “from all parts of the world [must] participate actively in all relevant levels of decision- making processes because it affects their lives today and has implications for their futures. In addition to their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, they bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account.”[Agenda 21]

The youth of India has always been at the centre of change – challenging stereotypes and participating in multiple forums to voice their opinions!

Despite this growing recognition, there exist very few and sporadic spaces for young people to actively engage with development processes at both the national and regional levels. There is a pressing need to increase the number of spaces that enable and recognize young people as credible agents of change at the local and national levels.

We, at Happy Hands Foundation have always focused on reviving India’s intangible heritage through extensive youth participation. Started in 2009 by three 21-year olds, the Foundation has stressed upon the need to build youth engagement with the arts through projects, fellowships and learning exchanges.

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The Youth Arts, Community and Transformation (ACT) Fellowship was initiated last year with an aim to connect the youth with the existing craft traditions of the country, where they build a shared understanding, become part of the process of creation and inspire change in the lives of the artists.

While fellows in 2013 travelled to the Coir toys cluster in Orissa, this year they would be travelling to Sitarganj, Uttarakhand and will acquaint themselves with Grass Weaving. The Fellowship was designed to sensitize urban youth to rural craft communities. If, you think, you will enjoy working with the artists and your fellow mates then take this journey with us. The Fellowship will also help in community building, and will help in overcoming of rural stereotypes.

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For Medhavi Gandhi, founder and director at Happy Hands Foundation, the project was conceived as part of a larger plan to allow a younger generation to experience and appreciate traditional crafts in a more personalized way.

“This fellowship is about experiencing craft in a more hands-on manner, and focuses on building lasting relationships between the fellows, their peers and the rural crafts world. It is also about welcoming new perspectives, and fresh ideas which may or may not be perfectly aesthetic, into the dynamic crafts-space. Our 2013 fellows spent close to 6-7 hours each day, interacting and undergoing engaging workshops with rural artisans in a small village of Orissa. While for some it has been a life changing experience, it has helped others pick a more focused career path in the area of design and development.” says Medhavi Gandhi.

For 18-year-old Ranjana, from New Delhi, the fellowship was by far the most enterprising experience of her life. The fellowship has even inspired Ranjana to continue with her interest in art over the next few years.

“I have never seen coir artists at work or lived in a village and the whole process of assisting them with their work and then marketing and exhibiting it, was fascinating. On top of that staying away from home with new people is something I haven’t done before and everyone was extremely welcoming and warm. And lastly I study a lot about sales, marketing, advertising, business skills in my course but we just read about it. In the fellowship I was able to actually see the implementation of all of this and other innovative strategies to bring up the coir artisan’s work.” says Ranjana.

The Youth ACT Fellowship 2014 is now accepting applications till August 15. For more details on the process, please visit here.

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