Amidst the crowd of buyers and artisans at The Hundred Hands event that’s held in Bangalore, one is flooded with Indian art at its best. In all of that, you can’t miss the reticent yet strong featured Manas Ghorai selling weaves from West Bengal and jewellery inspired by temples and creating a fusion art forms. I am awestruck as with such a clear understanding of the subtle colour palette he has used in his jewellery. It’s an artistic master piece.
I stop to pick up the sandstone earrings that has the sandstone temple carving from Orissa and his fine eye for creativity with fusion. He is unaware of what he has brought to the table for the urban discerning eye. Where subtle is fashion and loud is harakiri. I held the earrings against my ear and saw many more women pick up the rings, danglers and his other collection. I asked him why did he choose sandstone. He replied amidst the crowd of buyers that he was inspired by his friend who is a sandstone sculptor in Orissa.
We fixed to meet next day to hear his story. Manas fell upon art and creative pursuits with an unending frustration of being part of a job that didn’t prod him to pursue his creative hunger. He is a pharmacist and the odds of mixing and putting concoctions of medicines didn’t interest him. He found himself lost in that world. It was always the weaves, paintings and temple architecture that stayed back in his heart.
With this crazy need to express himself, he decided to quit his job. Embarked on this treacherous journey of reviving the Jamdani weave, bringing forth fashion from the Tagore household all over again. He started to include other artists in this pursuit of his. He has created earrings with the Pattachitra paintings. He worked closely with the Pattachitra artists to create art as fine miniature paintings like the Rajput school of art. That was a feat, because most pots – as those artists are called – had never worked on anything small. What came out of the collection was fresh and innovative. He also extensively used the traditional terracotta of West Bengal into jewellery mixed with silver. His latest collection is with the sandstone sculptors from Orissa. He was fascinated with the temple architecture and created a line of sandstone jewellery. The colours are muted and extremely international.
As I walked down with Manas after our “adda” which is the Bengali term for a cerebral exchange, I found myself in those villages of West Bengal where the smell of the “Gondhoraj Lebu” a special lime found in Bengal is distinctly around with its subtle fragrance. My sense of familiarity was present all along in my conversation with Manas and his journey.
India is full of such artists who need recognition from you and me. So next time please give the expensive foreign brands a pass. Reach out from something closer to home. Your inclusion of them would make a difference to their livelihood and encourage their art.
Manas Ghorai is among the many artists who need our support and love. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.