When will we buy art again?

by Simit Bhagat
Kandhamal district, Odisha

a man and woman dhorka artist sitting on the ground-ground up

The nationwide lockdown has severely affected vulnerable communities across the country, and among them are Dhokra artisans from southern Odisha. These artisans primarily come from landless Adivasi families that live in remote forests. Even without a pandemic, income from making Dhokra art is meagre, forcing these artisans to double up as daily-wage labourers. In total, they earn anywhere between INR 6,000 to 12,000 per family per month. Both these sources of income have now stopped.

While the state government is providing essential food supplies through the Public Distribution System (PDS), many of the artisans cannot access it. Lack of literacy and proper documents, and the inability to navigate complex government systems has ensured that they do not have a ration card.

Even if the lockdown is eased or lifted, the demand for artwork will take time to revive. Till then, the artisans’ lives and livelihoods will remain precarious.

Simit Bhagat is a social development practitioner and filmmaker based out of Mumbai.

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