From patterns to personality: how creativity helps you find your own unique voice

PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 335 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

As explained in books like The Creative Curve and Creative Confidence, the value of creativity is at a premium in a globalised, digitally connected world, where change and disruption are the new normal. It’s not just the number of ideas you have, but their quality, originality and customer or community value that are important.

Creativity can be cultivated by keenly observing patterns and connections in the world around us, engaging with audiences, and iterating ideas and prototypes. Engaging with the field and getting regular feedback helps build creative confidence and overcome fears about risk and mistakes.

In a chat with YourStory, insights on such creative patterns were shared by Satish Pujari,

Senior 3D Animator, Technicolor. Satish is also an artist, and his works are being showcased at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat in Bengaluru. He graduated from Vijay Mahantesh Lalitakala Mahavidyalay in Hubballi, and was also team lead at Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Lab.

In this photo essay, we feature some of Satish’s works, along with samples of the other exhibiting artists: Sanjay Chapolkar, Nilanjan Guha, Vidhu Pillai, Ravindra Mahale, Nagabhushan, Satish Biradar, Vittal Kulkarni, H Sheshechala, and Ram Mohan.

Satish has been in the animation field for over 15 years, but has also created a range of unique paintings that feature bonsai trees. As shown in this photo essay, some of the bonsai trees also seem to have elements of animals, birds and human characters – such as eagles, peacocks, snails, and even a pregnant woman.

“Making a connection between patterns and finishing a work of art is itself an act of success,” Satish explains. He also sees success for himself as an artist in making a deep connect with audiences.

His art works are priced in the range Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000. “If someone shows an obvious liking to my painting but says he is unable to pay the full price, I don’t mind giving a discount. What matters is seeing that the art work gives him happiness,” Satish says, though he jokes that other artists may not see things his way.

The message he wishes to convey through his art is respect for nature, both plant and animal life – hence the duality of both forms in his works. “Imagine if all Indian citizens had to plant a tree in order to get an Aadhar card, and if the government then gave you benefits for planting the tree – how green India would be,” Satish explains philosophically.

He also offers advice for aspiring artists. “Observe the style of other artists, but don’t imitate them. Learn from them but don’t copy them – focus instead on developing your own unique style, based on your technique and the connections and meaning you see in the world,” he explains.

“Develop your own talent. Don’t constrain your creativity,” Satish signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and see how to build impactful connections with the shifting trends around you?

Satish Pujari

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at [email protected]!

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.

[“source=yourstory”]

Artisans from 17 districts to come up with creative exhibits for three-day art fair

Artisans from 17 districts to come up with creative exhibits for three-day art fair

Kolkata: Around 60 artists, crafts persons and weavers from 17 districts of Bengal will take part in a three-day fair titled Lokshilpa O Karukriti mela, which will start from May 7.

It may be mentioned that after coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took up schemes to help the artisans. Their products are being exported through Biswa Bangla shops.

Around 2 lakh folk artists are receiving monthly stipend and are given programmes at cultural shows organised by different state government departments.

Melas are held throughout the year where the artisans can go and sell their products. Many Patchitris are invited to attend fairs held in European and other countries.

People from foreign countries are found to attend the melas that are held in different parts of Bengal.

The three-day fair will be inaugurated by Alokananda Roy while Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri, vice chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), will preside over the function. The mela will be organised by the West Bengal State Akademi of Dance Drama Music and Visual Arts of RBU.

Artisans from West Midnapore district will bring patachitras, mats, and decorative items made with buffalo horns and lac items from East Midnapore.

Clay dolls from south 24-Parganas and batik products from Birbhum and Howrah districts will be displayed at the mela. Wood carvings from Bardhaman district, dokra ornaments, shola handicrafts and kantha-stitch items from Birbhum district and traditional clay models from Nadia district will also be on display.

The famous Baluchari sarees from Bankura district, Chhau dance masks from Purulia district and bamboo handicrafts from Malda district, jute crafts from Murshidabad district, wooden masks and dhokra items from South Dinajpur district, Polia clay models from North Dinajpur district and traditional Mech handicrafts from Alipurduar district will be brought at the mela.

Shitalpatis from Cooch Behar, traditional Lepcha handicrafts from Kalimpong and wood carvings from Darjeeling district will be on display. The mela will remain open from 8am to 8pm.

[“source=millenniumpost”]

Future of Creative India lies in its past

Reviving Indian cultural goods and making them commercially viable will boost jobs and entrepreneurship

India has thrived on its creative economy since time immemorial, only to lose it all, in a space of the last 150 years. If we take an example of just the textile industry, we had a share of about 30 per cent in the global trade until late 19th century. This is now down to less than 5 per cent. The place of pride we once held is now just visible in museums, whether it is the 3,500 years old terracotta handspine at Lothal in Gujarat or the legendary transparency of the Indian muslin housed at London’s V&A museum.

The question facing us as Indians today is will we continue to play the cost game with generic products? Will we remain a factory to the world? Or can we hope to make a significant difference in the lives of our citizens, especially the most creative at the bottom of the pyramid. If that hope is real, we would need to restore and leverage our unique creative advantages and build value added business propositions.

In order to do that, we need to look into and learn from our past, trace back the journey and take the faster, more sustainable route to the future. Let us take examples of two plants that Indian textile trade rested on, Cotton and Indigo.

The cotton example

At the time of independence, 98 per cent of the cotton grown in India was the desi variety. Today, it is less than 2 per cent. As the industrial spinning mills in India emerged to help meet the needs of a large population, they needed more production-friendly cotton with longer staple lengths that desi varieties could not provide.

However, this transition happened without paying attention to our unique local semi-industrial ecosystem and we lost our ability to produce yarns and fabrics that nobody else in the world could or can. Up until the late 19th century, we were producing very fine hand spun and hand woven fabrics from the same short staple desicotton varieties. But instead of simultaneously developing technology to support desi cotton, our industry and research institutes (even post-independence) chose to abandon that direction to focus entirely on hybrid and BT cotton.

The indigo story

The second example is of the Indigo dye. Such was our claim to its provenance, that even the term ‘Indigo’ itself is derived from its Indian roots that meant “Indian” or “Indian Ink”. No surprise then that we had near monopoly in the world. We, however, lost our place to the German chemical version, which was much cheaper and the natural medicinal properties of Indigo that permitted miners to live in their jeans for days, was lost to the world.

While these are references from the past, clues on how we could turn these two crops back into a strong and scalable competitive advantage, also reside in our economic history. History has a habit of repeating itself. But only the bad things repeat themselves on their own. Good things, if relevant to current times, need to be cajoled back.

It is in our interest to think of ways how we can revive and accelerate the creative economy, more for commercial reasons than patriotic ones. A strong creative economy will not only provide a strong sense of identity to the future generations, but also generate employment at the grassroots level. But such a revival requires young entrepreneurs to come forward and reclaim the lost traditions and re-establish some of these missing links. There are multiple ways this can be achieved.

For example, we need to invest in finding innovative ways to mechanise post-harvest processes to enable spinning of the very short staple desi cotton. Once the link between the farmer growing desi cotton and the handloom weaver is re-established, the economic value chain will be active again. The small and marginal farmers have natural proclivity towards desi cotton due to their hardiness and low cost.

An assured market would be the only incentive they would need. Such incentives will lead to production of desi cotton on large scale, resulting in yarns that are uniquely Indian and can only be woven on the gentleness of a handloom. This would also render redundant, the questions around the relevance of handlooms in current times.

Likewise, natural indigo is like wine. Production of indigo relies on the characteristics of the soil, micro-climate in the region, skills of the farmer to extract dye, the local water quality and the dyeing techniques. No two lots dye the same, no two regions or tracts of land produce same quality, depth or shades of the colour. Just how wines from different regions have different “tastes”. So while dyers using synthetic indigo will produce a standard product, natural indigo users could produce fine wine like Chateau Margaux!

A combination of fabric made from desi cotton and dyed with natural indigo can recreate the magic of Indianness that is lost in time. Imagine a beautifully textured canvas in the hands of skillful and creative indigo artists. Where else in the world could this happen?

It is time that the current generation of creative entrepreneurs, many with the finest of design education in the world, exposure to global markets and a strong desire to work with Indian artisanal heritage find their own expressions with these two magic crops, to drive not just ‘Make in India’ but also ‘Create in India’.

Some brands like ‘Pero’, ‘11.11’ and ‘Maku’ have made exciting beginnings. Likes of Probiotics in Auroville, who have even created a unique anti-septic, anti-oxidant bath bar from the indigo plant provide an inspiration for many others to follow in their steps. We also have numerous organisations spearheading efforts in support. Malkha, Selco Foundation, Asal and Khamir are coming forward to finding real solutions to building the broken desi cotton value chain.

A beginning has been made, but there are miles to go. This requires a collective effort not only from the ecosystem partners and government, but also from customers. A first step could be recognising the beauty and relevance of Indian cultural goods in contemporary times. Ask not just what the world has to bring to us but what we have to bring to the world.

Anchal is an advisor, teacher and mentor specialising in creative and cultural industries, and an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Amit Karna is Associate Professor of Strategy and Innovation at IIM Ahmedabad. They together offer the creative and cultural businesses programme for entrepreneurs and industry at IIM-A.

[“source=thehindubusinessline”]

Creative License vs Historical Records: Spotting the Saffron in ‘Kesari’

Creative License vs Historical Records: Spotting the Saffron in ‘Kesari’

There is a growing tendency, both in academic literature as well as in popular culture, to distort history and alter or add historical facts to serve political and often communal ends. More often than not, such distortions are made to demonise the Muslim community or to undermine their contribution to history and to the exercise of nation-building.

The latest in this long line of distortions of history is the film Kesari, which claims to be a historical account but irresponsibly and deliberately adds facts and a narrative that spread Islamophobia while borrowing characters and events from history.

There is no doubt or dispute that the last stand of 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment at Saragarhi in 1897 was an admirable act of valour. 21 men knowingly embraced death in the line of duty, fighting against formidable odds. The purpose of this article is not to undermine their sacrifice, merely to get some facts straight.

The “uprising in the North-West frontier”, as British historians call it, was a war by Indian people against British colonial rule. Saragarhi, the scene of battle in Kesari, is located in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in what is today Pakistan and was, at the time the battle took place, very much a part of undivided India.

The Orakzai and Afridi Pathans who attacked Saragarhi were inhabitants of Tirah Valley in the NWFP. They were as much Indian freedom fighters as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (better known as ‘Sarhadi Gandhi’) who adopted peaceful means to fight the British rule in the same NWFP region starting a mere 14 years after the Battle of Saragarhi. The two-nation theory that resulted in the formation of Pakistan did not find place in mainstream political discourse for another 35 years after the Afghan uprising of 1897.

In 1891, six years before this battle, the British carried out the Miranzai expedition where they occupied the Samana range in the Tirah region of the NWFP to bring the Pathan tribes under their control. As part of this expedition, they occupied the Pathan village of Saragarh and destroyed the village to build a fort, finding it a strategic position commanding a view of the landscape around it.

The British also destroyed neighbouring villages and hamlets to make Saragarhi and neighbouring forts more secure. Local recruits could not be used to attack and destroy these villages, since Pathan soldiers hired by the British were found to hold kinship above loyalty to the Crown. So, the British imported Sikh soldiers to the NWFP as they were seen as the other ‘martial race’ that could combat the dauntless Pathan warriors.

Why Sikhs were selected

British historical accounts of the period indicate that Sikhs were selected for this purpose because of the unfailing loyalty they had displayed during the mutiny of 1857, when other native soldiers rebelled against the Crown. The 36th Sikh regiment that was engaged in the Battle of Saragarhi was in fact formed after the lesson learnt during 1857 – that Sikhs were fearless soldiers who remained unfailingly loyal to the Crown.

Historian after British historian writes how Punjab became the recruiting ground for the British Indian Army after 1857 because it remained untouched by the mutiny and Sikh soldiers remained loyal to the East India Company while other native soldiers waged the ‘First War of Indian Independence’, as we now call it.

For those interested, one of the British soldiers to have written about the shrewd policy to utilise Sikhs to combat Pathan warriors was a young officer named Second Lieutenant Winston Churchill. In Churchill’s words:

The Sikh…was originally invented to combat the Pathan. His religion was designed to be diametrically opposed to Mahommedanism. It was a shrewd act of policy. Fanaticism was met by fanaticism. Religious abhorrence was added to racial hatred.

This was how soldiers of the 36th Sikh found themselves stationed at Saragarhi Fort.

Soldiers of the Sikh regiment. Credit: Public domain

Distortions in the film

In 1897, the Pathans of the Orakzai and Afridi tribes joined forces to chase the British out of their homelands. This is how the battle of Saragarhi came about, as much a freedom struggle by Indians against British Rule as the Revolt of 1857 itself.

Kesari adds a fictional sequence in the beginning of the film, where Havaldar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) rescues an Afghan girl from a Mullah who wants to behead her for violating the supposed duties of a wife to her husband supposedly mandated by shariat. The film shows that the Pathan attack on Saragarhi was a reprisal against this interference by Ishar Singh in the Pathan tribe’s internal affairs.

In fact, in the film, the battle begins with the said Mullah, now riding ahead of the Pathan Lashkar, dragging the same girl to the Fort of Saragarhi and beheading her in front of Ishar Singh’s eyes to show him what he and his men are being punished for. Both scenes have the Mullah reciting Surah-e-Fatiha, the first verse of the Quran which is recited five times a day by practicing Muslims as part of namaz, to associate this barbarism with Quranic injunction. The verse, an uncontroversial one, which seeks guidance of Allah and prays to Him to show us the way, is as misplaced in the scene as the Gurbani would be in a slaughterhouse, but is added anyhow on the (I must admit well-founded) premise that the audience would not know better.

Contrary to any historical record, Ishar Singh then lies to the garrison stationed at Fort Saragarhi and tells them that the British commanding officer has asked them to abandon the fort and retreat. He later tells a jawan that he did this so that the soldiers choose to stay to fight to the death not on account of orders of a colonial master, but as free men.

Not content with depriving the Pathans of their rightful status as freedom fighters, words and phrases such as azaadiapni mitti and qaum are sprinkled liberally in the dialogues of the Sikh soldiers from here on, so that the narrative is actually reversed with the British colonial army adopting the language of freedom as they fight native warriors while irony dies a thousand deaths.

The bare boned facts of the actual battle sans jingoism were these – outnumbering the enemy, the Pathans repeatedly offered safe passage to the besieged Sikh soldiers of the British Army manning the fort, but the proud Sikhs bravely chose to fight to the finish. The Pathans, armed with jezails(handmade gunpowder based rifles) and swords threw themselves at the fort against the superior fire power of the enemy.

The soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment, with the advantage of altitude and the safety offered by the fort walls, fired relentlessly at them with their Martini-Henry breech loading rifles, among the most modern guns of that time, capable of firing 20 rounds per minute.

Around 180-200 Pathans lost their lives and yet, more surged forward. Two Pathans, braving enemy fire, managed to reach the fort walls and dug down to the foundation of the wall with their bare hands till the wall, foundation removed, collapsed under its own weight. The fort breached, the Pathans stormed the fort and slaughtered the Sikh soldiers who had claimed so many of their kinsmen. The 21 gallant Sikh soldiers died fighting to the last.

Saragarhi memorial gurudwara, built in 1904. Credit: By RameshSharma1 CC BY 2.0

Creative liberty and historical records

Dead men tell no tales and since none of the Sikh soldiers survived, it’s only natural that creative liberty will have to be taken to fill in details of how the battle occurred. However, the film goes contrary even to records that do exist, such as the diary maintained by Lt Colonel John Haughton, the commanding officer of the 36th Sikh, which was reproduced in his memoir written by Major A.C. Yates in 1900.

Facts are altered to glorify the narrative, falsifying it further in the process. For instance, the offer of safe passage by the Pathans to the Sikhs is shown as a ruse to get two Pathans to the fort walls, which is contrary to the record. Then there is no record of use of dynamite by the Pathans as the film depicts; the wall of the Saragarhi Fort was in fact breached by the two Pathans digging under the wall with their bare hands. These diggers were clearly visible from Fort Gulistan, which tried to signal to Saragarhi, but in vain, and this fact finds mention in Haughton’s diary.

The last survivor, Gurmukh Singh, after valiantly shooting down to his last round from the signalling tower, is reported to have shot himself. In the film, a burning Gurmukh emerges from the tower, grabs Gul Badshah, the leader of the Orakzais, and sets fire to his gunpowder reserve, killing him. Gul Badshah was in fact, not killed in the battle. Nor was Mullah Hadda, the cleric who, according to historical record, is supposed to have given the call for jehad against the British in the Tirah valley. In the film, he is stabbed to death by Akshay Kumar’s character.

Which brings us to jehad, that forbidden word of our age. The word is slipped in neatly in the opening introduction, spouted by the evil, woman-beheading Mullah. In a moment of rather unusual candour, he admits to the jirga or tribal council that a call to jehad is his weapon, a tool employed by him for his own purposes. The rhetoric of Islamophobia is now complete.

Lest we forget, the revolt of 1857 was led by Muslim ulema (clerics) who gave a call for jehad against the British rule, and paid for it with their blood. It is said that there was not a single tree on the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Calcutta on which an alim‘s (singular of ulema) body was not found hanging after the revolt was quelled.

We must bear in mind that every army fought in the name of their god, which was reflected in their war cries such as “Har har Mahadev” and “Jai Bhawani” of the Marathas and “Bole so nihal, sat Sri Akal” of the Sikhs. To this day, regiments of the Indian army go into battle with these and other religious war cries. I suppose it helps a soldier facing death to believe that a better life awaits him in another world as reward for his sacrifice.

Why is this film a concern?

So why is this film a cause for concern? It is after all, just a film. Films are meant to entertain, nothing more. It is an exercise by the makers of the film of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

The film is worrisome because it spreads Islamophobia. It creates a false context to a historical battle to tell a story in which the Muslim is the ‘other’. It creates a narrative that further alienates Muslims and incites ill will against Islam. Since inciting ill will against a community is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, this would fall under the restriction to the freedom of expression on the grounds of ‘public order’.

I would argue that such a narrative that alienates one community also undermines the integrity of India, another ground for restriction on free speech. It is also a violation of the rights of the Muslim people to equality, as it adds to communal hatred which then results in discrimination against them.

And lastly, when a film purports to depict history, there is an obligation to report correct facts, so far as known from historical record. Kesari is supposed to have made close to Rs 200 crore in revenue. That means that nearly one crore citizens have watched this film in theatres, and crores will watch it still for years on TV. Films touch a larger number of people and leave a more lasting impression than any history book. From here on, in popular imagination, this will be the history of the Battle of Saragarhi. The freedom struggle of the Pathans will be lost forever and they will be seen as treacherous barbarians fighting to uphold bigotry and misogyny, supposedly inspired by Islam.

I think the time has come for our courts to carve out a right against distortions of history from the right to information and the right to education, particularly of future generations, who will grow up believing these canards to be historical facts.

It cannot be that Akbar wins or loses the Battle of Haldi Ghati depending on who wins the elections, 450 years after the battle. The Central Board of Film Certification (or “Censor Board”, as it is popularly known) must be charged with a responsibility to ensure that films claiming to be based on historical events or employing historical characters must remain true to historical accounts and must not give the story a political or communal colour while filling in the details.

Even if facts are not proactively distorted, as in the case of Kesari, history changes depending on the perspective from which it is told. What perspective we choose reveals our politics. Why is it that there is no Indian film in which the Revolt of 1857 aka First War of Indian Independence is shown from the British perspective?

Here’s what it would sound like:

The revolt of 1857 was a treacherous act of mutiny by ingrate native soldiers who bit that hand that fed them, literally stabbing their rightful colonial masters in the back in the name of jehad, gau rakhsha and other such superstitious beliefs. For days, mayhem reigned. British officers were brutally killed, their women raped and their children murdered. Finally, an army of brave Englishmen aided by loyal native soldiers of the Empire fought off the mutineers and restored the rule of Her Majesty, Queen of England and Empress of Hindoostan. God save the Queen.

If we do not sponsor such narratives, then we must ask ourselves why we readily subscribe to the Islamophobic narrative of films like Kesari, why in fact we flock to watch such films in droves. In the answer lies the key to understanding the hate crimes and bigotry plaguing our country today.

[“source=thewire”]