By Paulomi Das:
Aipan is a traditional artform which reflects the culture of Uttarakhand. The traditional Aipan is a rice paste (white) is used to make patterns onto the red base called geru (red). The art form comprises of designs made out of dots and lines where the dots signify completeness and life, and the lines signify continuity. This art form was considered an intrinsic part of the cultural heritage of Kumaon, a region in Uttarakhand. Over the course of time, the practice and usage of this art had subsequently declined due to the migration of Kumaoni people to different parts of the country leading to lesser number of people knowing about it.
Looking at the deteriorating state of this art form, there was a strong need for it to be revived. A group of students focusing on entrepreneurial action worked on a plan to employ a group of eight Kumaoni women who had the knack and artistic skills for Aipan.
Inspired by the auspiciousness behind the traditional Kumaoni art form, Enactus at Indraprastha College for Women, came up with their flagship venture “Project Aipan” which was officially introduced in 2014. The project aims to tackle the dual objective of reviving the art form, and at the same time, empower, financially and socially, the small community of Kumaoni women.
Aipan comprises of various lines, dots and geometric patterns, all of which conveys a special meaning used for spiritual and religious purposes. Each motif and element drawn on it is a reflection of India’s rich cultural heritage, for instance, one of the motifs depicts a Hindu deity such as Goddess Lakshmi showing wealth and strength of mind.
Traditionally, Aipan is drawn on floors and walls of homes, but Enactus IPCW transformed this art form into luxury and utility products such as diaries, pen stands, pillow covers and canvases, etc. These products are handcrafted and painted by the community of women who are the main stakeholders in this project and have tremendously been able to enhance their skills since the project started.
Before these products are fully crafted, regular art training sessions are conducted in order to refine their artistic skills. The beneficiaries have weekly classes with an art teacher, who is a student at NIFT Delhi. Here, they are taught how to work on different bases, like cloth or wood and are taught ways to improve their efficiency and finesse. The team has seen a significant change in the community’s social engagement.
Project Aipan has mutually benefited members of the community as well as the team members. “Seeing happiness and confidence on the faces of the community and experiencing the growth of Aipan which was an erstwhile dying art form, gives me contentment. Working under this project was a phenomenal experience”, says Radhika Sareen, a member of Enactus IPCW.
Akshaya Elangovan further adds, “The community’s zeal for paving their own path towards success and their determination to become financially independent despite their lesser privileged background has touched my heart and motivated me to stand on my own feet and face the world.”
Enactus IPCW is currently trying to organise the community into a self help group in order to make the project sustainable and take a step further in ensuring that the beneficiaries can become completely independent.