Lok Sabha elections 2019: Bengal village that uses folk art to keep political graffiti at bay

Bengali film star and Trinamool Congress’ candidate from West Bengal’s Ghatal Dipak Adhikari or Dev was in for a surprise when he went to campaign in a small village in West Midnapore district.

Used to seeing his own photos on splashed on billboards, either related to movies or elections, Dev could not find a single election graffiti or poster anywhere in Pingla’s Naya village, a small hamlet that is home to only 76 families, on April 26.

Instead, Dev found every square inch of every wall covered by patachitra, a traditional form of folk painting done on handmade paper scrolls or fabric using vegetable dye. The scrolls tell a story, usually from mythology, or carry messages on social issues such as child marriage or illiteracy.

At Naya, where patachitra not only keeps every kitchen running but also earns recognition even in foreign lands, the artisans have thought of a novel way to keep typical election graffiti at bay.

“We don’t want our village filled with political propaganda. All parties have been told that they can campaign here but cannot put up posters or graffiti. We will cast our votes, but don’t want to be tagged with any symbol,” Bapi Chitrakar, an artisan and resident of Naya, said.

The parliamentary constituency of Ghatal is polling on Sunday along with Jhargram, Tamluk, Kanthi, Medinipur, Bankura, Bishnupur and Purulia. The remaining nine seats of the 42 constituencies in the state will votes on May 19, the last phase. Counting will be held on May 23.

A wall invites every visitor at the entrance to Naya. It is covered with patachitra, depicting the devastating floods in Kerala and appealing people for help. Some Trinamool workers had put up a poster on the wall and the villagers tore it in no time.

While patachitra fuelled the village economy over the years, Naya got a new road and pukka houses. But none of that has changed the people’s attitude towards political parties.

“We do not want political slogans in visual form. This village and every house in it represent art that has earned appreciation across the globe. Our people have been to other states and foreign countries with their work. Many have won awards,” said Chandan Chitrakar, an artisan.

Recognising their contribution, political parties said they don’t impose their graffiti on the villagers.

“Naya is well known for its contribution to folk art. We campaigned there but did not put up any graffiti,” the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s local BJP Antara Bhattacharya said.

“These artisans have made us proud. Their walls are precious. We do not want to ruin those,” said Soumen Mahapatra, Trinamool Congress minister and Pingla MLA.

First Published:
May 12, 2019 15:32 IST

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