BP Koirala Foundation Project Brings Mithila Painting Close to People in Nepal

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Mithila Painting is a distinct style of folk painting, is practiced in the Terai regions of Nepal and North Bihar. This unique art form has been delicately handled by the women, as part of keeping a living tradition – and to secure livelihood through this vocation. Mithila Painting started in unnoticed form at the mud-walls of villages of Mithila, and with the passage of time, it found an extension on paper and silk fabrics. This art is performed with the mastery of fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens and matchsticks, using natural and experimental colours – and come out to characterise by eye-catching geometrical patterns.

Today, when the Mithila Painting as an art form is creating the livelihood opportunities across the border of India and Nepal – it becomes more imperative to unleash its true potential. The further scope of its exploration is immense, and as it is globally recognised now, its expansion in course of time will make women of Mithila, more leaned towards art entrepreneurship.

Much is being done in this regard at Janakpur in Nepal – and Madhubani in India, the next round of commercialization will help it further to enable the communities, to find more livelihood opportunities with this. The dynamic changes in Mithila region are overtly transforming the ways to look on its beautiful art tradition, where now the passion in art is being linked with entrepreneurship. Remarkably, women have a lead here.

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Under the aegis of a research project (“Women Employment in Mithila Painting Industry: With Special Reference to Janakpur”) supported by BP Koirala Foundation (BPKF), Journalist Atul K Thakur and an Independent Researcher Chitralekha Jha made efforts to sensitise the stakeholders to help the potential of sustainable livelihood of women artists involved in Mithila Painting.

On the proposed theme, a conference was organised on June 25, at Hotel Shaligram, Kathmandu. The program was attended by key policymakers, art scholars, journalists, including, Nepal’s former finance minister Madhukar SJB Rana, vice president of Nepal Art Council Sagar SJB Rana, journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, entrepreneur Bishal Dhakal, art historian Dr. Ram Dayal Rakesh, journalist Rupa Jha, advocate Dipendra Jha.

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On June 27, another conference of BPKF was organised at Janakpur Women Development Centre (JWDC), Janakpur. The program was attended by the artists and management of JWDC, local scholars, members of Industry Chambers, media. Among the panelists of conference were, Atul K Thakur, Chitralekha Jha, economist Bhogendra Jha, academician Hari Bansh Jha, activist Sunil Mallik.

The outcome of the rich discussions during the conferences will be compiled in research report, and later on in a book.

“After commercialisation of Mithila Painting, it has played a remarkable role in providing a creative and productive space for rural artisans, including women in significant ways. The old economic set-up of artists has been particularly broken away, which in effect of this art’s persisting market linkage. The income-expenditure ratio in its size volume and decision-making processes in this art trade has been shifting all along. This has created a better ground for women participation in Mithila folk painting industries, and strong so from economic point of view,” said the researcher Chitralekha Jha.

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Indeed, Janakpur, an important commercial and cultural hub of Nepal, is known for its sublime stake in history. It has distinction of being the birthplace of Sita, and a place from where the epic Ramayana was originated. In modern time as well, this place has attained its prominence by being the host of cultural practices, commercial activities and social-political activism. The present study has a crucial relation with this place as its central theme is linked for outreach study at Janakpur and its bordering parts in Madhubani, the place of Mithila Painting’s origination.

Atul K Thakur, a researcher with this project and a journalist with keen interest in Nepal has shared his views in these words, “In Nepal, the level of low employment leads to low level of income, which consequently leads to low level of saving and finally low level of capital formation. Such economic fundamentals make it tough for Nepal to have a positive environment for large scale capital investment into different sectors of economy and to promote the culture of industrialisation. The setting up of large industries is challenging, but this is an area which can’t be ignored by the government, industry and citizens. The right approach and efforts made in this direction will help Nepal turning from an importing economy to a formidable exporter of goods and services. Besides this, it would be equally worthwhile to promote low capital-based cottage or village type industries (technically Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises-MSMEs), which have capacity to generate local employments and control migration of local human resources to the far flung places. Essentially, these small industries can help making the rural Nepal, a hub of productive activities. To make economic transformation in the country, these industries are most suitable, with their comparatively low reliance on capital – and in their ability to grow on locally available raw materials, production techniques and human resources.”

This research project is aimed to broadly study the conditions, cultural aspects, socio-economic importance of Mithila Paintings and the involvement of women artists and entrepreneurs in Janakpur. Besides the academic and empirical research, imminent Symposiums on this theme in Kathmandu, Janakpur and Madhubani, will help the project with academic rigours and policy-centric debates in achieving its aim of creating the basis of sustained and exploitation-free livelihood options for women of Mithila Painting Industry.