Festival for Building Resilience

Shola craft at Surul © Banglanatak dot com

This year, 2021, is the Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. banglanatak dot com, headquartered in Kolkata and specializing in culture and development, was supported by the British Council to hold the Ripples Festival—Reveling in the Rarh (https://ripplesfestival.com/) between 15 and 17 January 2021. The Ripples Festival promoted an interesting model of integrating heritage and place-making and develop responsible tourism where the local communities are positively impacted. Santiniketan at Bolpur, embodying the first Asian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of universalism and heritage sensitive development, is a popular tourist destination. The Ripples Festival created opportunities for people to interact directly with the folk artists and craftspersons living in the villages in and around Bolpur. It offered a rich experience of art, craft, beautiful landscape of river and red soil, along with exchanges of perspectives and ideas for building a resilient and creative future. Baul songs are inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Heritage of Humanity. They propound the philosophy of searching within and universal brotherhood to attain the divine. In the festival, the Bauls of Bolpur, Ilambazar and Joydev Kenduli, performed and shared their philosophy. Women held workshops and exhibitions on making Kantha embroidery—a quilting tradition of recycling old clothes and beatifying embroidery with simple run stitches. Craftspersons who make intricate crafts from the spongy white stem of the Shola plant held workshops. A theater festival, Tribute to Shakespeare, explored telling the timeless stories using traditional folk drama forms.

Raibenshe performance in About Caliban © Banglanatak dot com

The festival also reached out to art lovers through online components. The rural artists enjoyed their first opportunity of sharing their art form and village on a global platform. Videos and live interactions provided a unique experience to people connecting online. The webinars were held on the themes of Heritage and Festivals, Heritage and Creative Economy, and Heritage Resilience. The speakers were from India and the UK with extensive experience in theater, music, craft, and art as well as multicultural collaboration and exchange. They included Simon Broughton, Chief Editor of the prestigious Songlines magazine; designer, Amber Khokar; artist-entrepreneur, Ali Pretty; Dr. Joseph Lo with extensive experience in the world of craft; theater exponent, Parnab Mukherjee; founder of Tapantar, Kallol Bhattacharya, along with Dr. Debanjan Chakrabati and Jonathan Kennedy from the British Council. The webinars have helped in creating global awareness on the art forms and gathering international perspectives on key needs for building resilient creative economy. Different speakers stressed the need to look at festivals and heritage as integral components to fostering inclusive and sustainable development. The festival highlighted the importance of cultural collaboration and exchange for rejuvenating art forms and creating new markets and audiences. It empowered rural artists with new digital skills and highlighted technology’s power in bringing the world closer with online participants.

Ripples Festival video: https://youtu.be/CGdfuuAgYNI