In May this year, when veteran artist Jatin Das put out over 3,000 hand fans from his collection for public viewing at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), it created quite a flutter. In an adjoining room, a group of tribal artists from Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal told visitors the story of the hand fan, how it is made, and how different states have been using different kinds of fans for centuries.
That story will continue on August 15, from the ramparts of Red Fort, where a thousand bamboo fans will be offered to invitees — which include ministers, parliamentarians and diplomats — as souvenirs.
The Ministry of Defence, which organises the Independence Day event, has procured the fans from TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited), which functions under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
“We approached the Ministry of Defence with the request to let us supply pankhas. The aim was to promote the tribal product and also help the invitees beat the heat. The idea was accepted by the Ministry of Defence, and they placed an order for 1,000 hand fans,” confirmed Pravir Krishna, Managing Director, TRIFED.
“It is an elegant bamboo-based fan, which has been hand-painted, with different tribal motifs on both sides. These fans have been made by the Mahali tribe of West Bengal,” said Krishna.
According to officials, the tribal artisans received Rs 150 per fan. Each fan has a message for the guests — to “please carry this pankha” with them, “specially made by tribal artist”.
“We introduced ‘The Pankhas’, a range of exotic hand fans into our product line, drawing inspiration from Jatin Das’s collection of handmade fans. It is our endeavour to keep tribal traditions alive and promote their livelihoods by creating a market for their produce,” said an official from TRIFED.
After the Jatin Das exhibition in Delhi, TRIFED organised a “Pankha Festival” at its showroom in the capital. Since then, the organisation has been showcasing these hand fans, sourced from artisans from all over the country, through its 97 retail outlets and e-portals.
Meanwhile, Jaya Jaitly, founder of Dastkari Haat Samiti, an association of crafts people, said: “In 2014, during the Prime Minister’s speech at Red Fort, I noticed how those present there were fanning themselves with papers, booklets or pamphlets.” She said she then came up with this idea, for which she has been persuading both the ministries.
(With inputs from Sumedha Gosain)