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Folk Arts of West Bengal and the Artist Community

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Born in an obscure village of West Bengal, Tarapada Santra struggled against acute poverty and stringent social constraints all his life to be recognised as an authority on the folk arts of his state. Through his exceptional talent, determination and untiring diligence, he evolved a unique system of field-research after spending years in studying the lifestyle of people of different districts of West Bengal, their history, culture, occupation and festivals and the many objects which they produced with simple ingredients for beautifying their homes and serving their day-to-day needs. He recorded his findings in twenty-one books, ten of which were published during the last two years of his life, while he lay in a hospital-bed, knowing that death was not far off and anxious that his life’s work might remain undisclosed in the end.

: Rural Bengal has always been a treasure-trove of folk art in diverse forms, which found expression in almost every conceivable item of village life in earlier days, starting from clay-built houses and corn-bins to folk painting, kantha embroidery on patched cotton, alpona floor painting, hand-woven sitting mats, hand-fans, dolls, terracotta horses, masks worn in folk dances and even moulds for making sweets. What made these items unique was the use of inexpensive and easily available ingredients, which the creative passion of the rural artisans transformed into exquisite objects of art. In this book, Tarapada Santra delves into the intricacies of the creative pattern of folk arts of Bengal, providing an overview of the vast array of art forms and analysing how regional influences and political changes were reflected in the creative styles of the artisans, who braved innumerable hardships to pursue their trade for generations and made significant contributions to the onward progress of rural society. This first ever English translation of Tarapada Santra’s work carries the flavour and essence of the original Bengali text and introduces the reader to the rural lifestyle of Bengal and its many traditional forms of folk arts – which are bound to draw the interest of researchers and art-lovers all over the world.

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