The next time you board the metro at Race Course, take time to walk along the corridors. On display are maps of the different crafts of India, a project initiated by Jaya Jaitly and her team at the Dastkari Haat Samiti. A collection of 24 sets with nearly 48 artworks by master craftsmen from each state, these maps are little paeans of India’s cultural heritage, with nuggets about everything you need to know, from metal carving to fine embroidery.
While Gond art comes alive on the Crafts Map of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala’s has mural tempera painting style seen often in temples and palaces. Each state has a map dedicated to craft and textile. So even as the lakes and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir have been presented through the art found in papier-mache, its textile map shows a portion of Srinagar, as seen on an antique embroidered shawl displayed at the state museum.
Sponsored by the Ministry of Textiles through the Crafts Museum, these maps displayed inside the Race Course metro station were planned by architect Suparna Bhalla and her team at Abaxial. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has given the wall space for free.
“I started with the intention of only doing one India map in 1993, but the project just grew. In the process, we created many original artworks identifying many traditional art forms. Some have been given a new twist,” says Jaitly, founder Dastkari Haat Samiti.
It was tough selecting art from all across the country and supervising the work for this project. The art for the Punjab map was done by well-known artist Arpana Caur. With help from well-known graphic designers Sunita Kanvinde and Subrata Bhowmick, Jaitly had the entire collection ready, which would then become the encyclopedic content for a book called Crafts Atlas of India. Jaitly recalls that, while the Delhi map was being prepared, they were not allowed to show the airport for security reasons. ‘But everyone knows where the airport is’, she told the rather stiff, unsmiling army officer, who remained unmoved.
Jaitly and her team worked on the minutiae of the maps. “We wanted to give the right feel and colour for the rich and fertile soil of Bihar. Since we felt it didn’t show too well in the artwork, with the artist’s permission, we smeared real soil over the original yellowish background. This helped the colours of the women’s clothing in the art stand out brightly against a brown background,” she says.
If in the Chhattisgarh map artist Sundari Bai, rather shy of putting her signature to the work, is seen on the bottom left corner holding a paint paintbrush, the West Bengal map shows the Kolkata taxi — the Ambassador car — with a typical Bangla babu in a dhoti getting into it.
Currently, enlarged versions of these maps are framed on the RCR metro station. The printing and design of the maps does make it difficult to read some of the text, however, visually the images are captivating. This is not the first time that DMRC has opened its corridors for art. It has a permanent display of state textiles at INA, exhibition panels at Jor Bagh, in collaboration with India Habitat Centre, and a recent National Museum tie-up at Udyog Bhavan.