The Walls of wisdom: expanding space for women’s creativity


The Walls of wisdom: expanding space for women’s creativity


During our walks in different parts of the country as a part of Shodh Yatras, we have discovered tremendous richness of creativity, local knowledge and wisdom among rural women. And yet when we look at different programs, processes and perceptions about developmental opportunities, this rich knowledge resource of creative women seldom becomes a point of reference or departure.

I wish to pick up some outstanding examples of such creativity in different fields, mainly arts and culture and then argue that both state and civil society must consider recognition, respect and reward for such expressions. Entrepreneurial opportunities  for disadvantaged sections of society will then have to be tailored to the potential I submit exists in abundance. Challenge before us is then is obvious, how do we become inclusive without incorporating women’s creative potential?

While walking in Champaran district, from Motihari to Betia, we came across a grain bin which stunned us by its beauty. As illustrated, Ram Tewari devi ( see pic 1) had made an outstanding art work on the wall of the grain bin. When we asked why did she do it, her reply was,” what else could she have done?” Art became imperative, where was the choice. Imagine the cultural richness of a community which sees art as imperative. For another hundred and odd kilometers, we did not find such a grain bin art. Did Ram Tewari devi know, how unique was her work? In another Shodh Yatra from Patmada, Jharkhand to Puruliya and Bankura in West Bengal, once again our steps were stopped by a sight of wall, a whole wall which was used by a canvas by Bhabi Mahato ( see pic 2). Sitting with a broom besides her creation, she was nonplussed by our excitement and admiration of her art. In Baghpat, Uttra Pradesh, a lady had used the dung cakes storage walls as the canvas for her art.

Why should not there be more space for such an at to be expressed in more appreciative and rewarding contexts? Which state government has a policy for providing encouragement to such street/backyard  art and culture among various communities and  make that a basis of entrepreneurial empowerment. Why should not employment program build upon such skills and artistic talent rather than making such artists, singer, performers, and other creative knowledge experts break stones and dig earth?  Why should not Ahmedabad have walls in the city where such art can be displayed form all over the rural and urban Gujarat as well as other states? Unless the aesthetic domains are fertilized by the so called unschooled minds, how will new visions and opportunities emerge, how will our imagination  become more inclusive?  Their smiles should not be confused with satisfaction. This is a challenge to the way we govern ourselves.


Anil K Gupta