When art transforms the lives of women: Madhubani

Madhubani painting

Many of us have admired and maybe even bought a Madhubani painting at some point in our lives. The history of the art is ancient, but how it benefits women in the modern context it a great story. And we thought we should tell you about it.

A quaint little town with a beautiful surrounding and people who are kind and humble, this place houses a unique talent. Madhubani is one of the districts in Bihar which is famous for its special art form called Madhubani Art, which originated some centuries back.

Madhubani, literally translated to Forest of Honey, captures and holds the centuries old traditions of Hinduism and these artisans replicate and communicate these stories through the Madhubani Art Form. The artists depict folklores, traditions, rituals, celebrations, and spiritualism in these paintings as they even incorporate personal experiences and stories.

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau

Madhbani painting

An ancient art empowering women today: Madhubani ( Picture Credit: vilyoo.com)

The paper is treated with cow dung to increase it’s longevity so the painting may last for long. Traditionally they used a cotton ball with a bamboo stick for a brush, which has now changed to the modern brushes. The paintings  were initially done on the walls but now have transformed onto papers, bottles, lampshades, papier-mâché, fabric etc. The paintings are tweaked to maintain the attraction for new consumer base also. The colours are all natural taken from fruits and vegetables available locally. The black is obtained from the burnt oil, while other colours like yellow and purple from Sunflower and Jamun.

Also read: The woman transforming the lives of rural artisans: Laila Tyabji

Many women are involved in this activity of painting and with the help of media and marketing, they have had the opportunity to showcase their work in countries like Iceland, United States of America, and also some parts of Europe.

This has not only helped employ women but also given them recognition for their work which is a huge step in a state like Bihar which struggles with women empowerment where the female literacy is only about 51% according to the 2011 Census in comparison to the males, which is 20% more.

Bharti Dayal, a Madhubani painting artist and a national awardee echoes this thought.  “Madhubani Art Form is Timeless . It is based on Dualism of life and universe -The universal truth. Made by specially women and putting their imagination and essence into an image. This beautiful art form is creating livelihood for thousands women not only in Madhubani or Bihar but all over the country. Its a means of supporting thousands women’s existence.”

Also read: Exception to the rule: This Haryana village has more girls than boys

A state struggling with orthodox ideals and traditions that don’t favor women empowerment, this district is helping these women from small villages get out of the premises of their houses to showcase their talent.  An organization called Shilp Sangh Co-operative Society in Ranti village is helping women do just that. Ranti is a haven of artists and Shilp Sangh works with these women artists adept at Madhubani painting.

Madhubani painting artists

The women who create the magic of Madhubani ( Picture Credit: bbc.co.uk)

In small villages, the idea of feminism is bound to get some sort of backlash, and therefore the approach varies from place to place. The idea to help women make something that they can call their own is a step that leads to a psychological development of independence that these women experience. To be able to create and express stories, customize paintings with their own talent, is something that is expanding horizons for women in these small villages all around.

A small step is all it takes to create a change and the Madhubani artisans definitely feel the change.  All we can say is, these initiatives are what help girls and women understand the new world and we couldn’t be more thankful for those!

Feature Image Courtesy – artsoftheearthindia.in

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