art and culture
Workshop focuses on preservation of traditional mask-making art of north Bengal


Workshop focuses on preservation of traditional mask-making art of north Bengal
Kolkata, Nov 30 (IBNS): To encourage the traditional mask makers of north Bengal and to pave the way for research and documentation of this art form, an eight-day workshop was recently organised under the aegis of West Bengal State Akademi of Dance Drama Music and Visual Arts, Rabindra Bharati University, and the Lalit Kala Akademi, Regional Centre, Kolkata.

The workshop focused on the making of traditional masks of the Rajbanshi, Rabha and Mech communities of northern West Bengal and was held at Moulani, Mal Block, Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal.

According to the organisers, the objectives of holding this workshop as a community-based initiative of the two Akademies at Moulani, Mal Block, Jalpaiguri district itself were
·         to encourage in various ways the gurus and others involved in the making of these masks and build up their confidence mainly by making their work more widely known;
·         to undertake the research and documentation efforts required to know more about these masks and the rituals and ritualistic dances of the three communities in which they have been used for centuries, and,
·         on the basis of the research and documentation conducted, to take appropriate steps aimed at the preservation of these masks and rituals and ritualistic dances with which they are associated, which together constitute a very important centuries-old art form now threatened with extinction, with the techniques of mask making not having been documented and maintained in a scientific and organise manner, and bearing in mind the great importance these masks have assumed in the lives of the Rajbanshis, Rabhas and Mechs, taking into account their beliefs in animism and totems, and their perception of masks as instruments of revelations of pathways to the worlds of gods, other invisible powers and the unknown.
The ten gurus (teachers) who took part in this workshop were Madhumangal Malakar, Bhupen Deshi, Madhab Sarkar and Suresh Ray from the Rajbanshi community, Shantiram Rabha, Jiban Rabha and Jarpan Rabha from the Rabha community, and Samir Thakur, Rajib Thakur and Rojen Narjinary from the Mech community.