Every Beautiful Thought Is An Art - Story of The Maati Centre
Chuck Klosterman had rightly said, “Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” Chasing this love for things which are otherwise very trivial and ordinary, by a group of young enthusiasts from across the state of Assam and other parts of Northeast, was born an art community – The Maati Centre.
In the heart of the otherwise busy city, Guwahati, there lies a quaint corner that has, off late, become the favourite haunt of many people of the city. Located on Lamb Road, Ambari, a single look at the banner near the gate is inviting by itself. And, as the name would have it, an essence of something that is our own.
The Maati Centre is a community which promotes young and independent artists of the region with the objective to create a platform in the region for better exposure and knowledge sharing in the field of art and culture. Currently, the community boasts of creative deliverables from young and talented artists like Arpit Agarwal, Rinky Roy, Avantika Alongbar, Neelim Mahanta and Siddharth Kaamdewri, to name a few.
The fact that other parts of the country are very rich in arts and crafts, compared to Assam, pushed the initiators of the community to establish the first-of-its-kind artists’ forum. With the passion that saw life in 2011, in a small 100 sq ft shop, the members of the community have come a long way to reach out to the hearts of the people of Guwahati. Unlike the garments and accessories genre, which are commonly seen in almost all shops, The Maati Centre strived to bring forward art which is not easily accessible by the people in general.
‘You need to travel to discover new things!’ With this belief as the bottom line, The Maati Centre is set on a journey to visit rural regions of India and pulling handmade art and crafts from these corners. A visit to the store will get one introduced to the crafts of as many as 9 rural districts of West Bengal, which includes clay work to an elaborate jute collection, the exquisite handloom anthology from Bongaigaon, a rare sight of organic fragrance products from none other than Tihar Jail, glazed pottery work of Uttar Pradesh and much more. If all these were not enough, they even have vibrant earrings made of paper and water proof coasters featuring common fish found in the region of Assam.
The Maati Centre works in collaboration with many young artists of the region who otherwise do not get the platform to showcase their art. Moving a step ahead of just handmade paintings, arts and crafts, the community has recently given opportunities to a handful of budding youths who have delivered their organic agricultural products too.
“We keep the materials in store and it sells like hot cakes. From paintings, to black rice, to handkerchiefs, people love everything that is beautiful. And everything that sells gives a boost to the young artists as well as the community at large,” said a member of The Maati Centre.
Talking about the art of the region and people’s approach towards it, another member of the community said, “There is a lot of art hidden in parts of the country. These need to be unveiled. If you talk about Assam, Majuli would certainly be the richest in terms of art. People of Majuli are religiously devoted to culture. Art lovers in Guwahati are in abundance too but getting a craft or product from another state doesn’t come conveniently. Our initiative here is to boost the concept of exchange of art so that people know what lies in the unexplored areas.”
What can be found in The Maati Centre:
Aagor – A very popular NGO, Aagor has extensively worked to promote the handloom culture, while working for the rights of the poorest weavers and craftsmen. Handloom products such as kurtis, bed covers, cushion covers, are very much sought after in The Maati Centre.
Antarkranti – Who could have thought of bringing in something that has been made by the prisoners of Central Jail, Tihar? Well, The Maati Centre did. Working under the guidance of Antarkranti, a Delhi based NGO, the ones behind bars have contributed and transformed the society. One can find a broad range of candles and agarbattis made by these inmates of the jail in The Maati Centre.
ROOHI - ROOHI is a social enterprise passionately working with traditional textiles and crafts and helping empower weavers and artisans of Haflong, a beautiful hill station in Assam. Crafted to give a new shape to women empowerment, The Maati Centre has a delightful collection of handmade earrings made of paper and woollen materials.
La – In the hands of a young man of Sikkim, Sonam Tashi, was born the brand La, out of his passion of intricate works. One can find design lights made of bamboo in the store. The creativity and minute detailed art work will leave anyone awestruck.
The members of The Maati Centre had tirelessly worked to unravel the art and craft story of Bengal, and named it Bongomaati, an exhibition that was held last week. This was the maiden such exhibition in the city. The exhibition, which was more of an experience to the audience, managed to showcase the tales and lineage of the creations of the craftsman of rural parts of West Bengal. The exhibition showcased wooden dolls of Bardhaman, Madur Kathi of Medinipur, clay dolls of Nadia, Sabai grass crafts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura, Purulia, and others.
The community of The Maati Centre is closely involved in city beautification initiatives too. Recently, they had beautified the walls of Cotton College giving it a total revamp. When asked about assistance from public, if any, they shared how the idea of ‘Give Us Colours, We Will Transform’ was their only motto. From students of IIT Guwahati to residents of the city, people warmly came forward to help the team with paints and colours which they later transformed into beautiful paintings to give the otherwise dull wall a facelift.
The Maati Centre also has a wide space to facilitate book readings, poetry and storytelling sessions. The upper floor of the store has a conference hall where art lovers get together to share warm moments related to artistic values.
It is not often that one can find so much of unique initiatives and products under one roof. The community is an epitome of the saying, “Everything you can imagine is real.” Love for small things and passion to give it a new life is what the community is all about. A must visit in the city, here is hoping that the community goes a long way to continue reshaping its noble cause.