What is Devrai Art Village about?
Devrai Art Village is a non-profit initiative to connect with nature and celebrate creativity. A core group of highly skilled Adivasi craftsmen and artists from the naxalite affected areas of Gadchiroli & Chattisgarh find a livelihood and a safe refuge here in Panchgani. The unique and distinctive style of our product range comes out through combinations of different mediums such as iron, brass, stone, terracotta, wood, bamboo and tumba(dried gourd).
Please provide a brief overview of your initiative?
Devrai Art Village sustains the Adivasi art of metal casting by evolving it through innovation, design and experimentation with new mediums.
Today we have grown into a community of 35 artists and run a vibrant apprenticeship program for Adivasi youth, men and women.
Apart from creating ‘Devrai Rock Dhokra’ - the first time ever fusion of stone and brass (under patent process) we are constantly tying out new experiments like fusing terracotta and metal craft, ceramic and metal, organic casting( where we incorporate natural elements like leaves and branches etc into the process of casting)
What inspired you to build the above initiative?
The beginning of this initiative can be traced to the presence of the lone Ficus tree on our land in Panchgani, which we had just acquired. The old Umbar tree with its branches almost touching the ground formed a quiet cave like retreat on our otherwise barren land. I always dreamt of doing some activity there and then a chance meeting with Suresh Pungati, who was teaching art in the same school where I too was involved, seeded my mind with the idea of creating Devrai Art Village. It would be a safe space for Adivasis from Gadchiroli(Suresh’s native place) who could come to Panchgani and find a livelihood through art.
Two primary drivers inspire us - the process of creating high quality art and sustaining a fast disappearing artistic heritage and secondly providing livelihood avenues for the artists.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome these challenges?*
The most challenging part is to make both ends meet. We started small with 4 craftsmen and now have to sustain a much larger team and create a home away from their home. We strive to give them not just a livelihood but also a sense of identity and pride in their efforts.
The challenge is never completely overcome because the older ones are replaced by new and this is what keeps us energized and constantly striving to fulfill our goals.
How you think your initiative could change the society/industry.*
Adivasi art and craft are mostly showcased as museum pieces or at best find their way into government sponsored exhibitions where they hope to get buyers. Devrai Art Village has created a platform where innovations in age old traditions and design inputs in modern taste and aesthetics enable the craftsmen to reach out to a wider customer base. They appreciate the unique quality of this art and our happy to pay the price it commands. Thus was born Devrai Rock Dhokra, the first time ever fusion of stone and brass now under patent process.
Apart from enabling high quality production, which harnesses the inherent talent in tribal men and women, DAV also focuses on training through internships and workshops. It has become a bridge between far-flung tribal areas and metropolitan cities, giving exposure of the indigenous traditions to mainstream institutions and design schools.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the initiative till now.*
We have existed for the last ten years practically without any donations on the strength of the sales of the artifacts. Now recently the government of Maharashtra is sponsoring our participation in an international exhibition in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and we are grateful for it. This will hopefully start us on exporting artifacts.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
We envisage growth in three areas. First, more experiments with different art forms and mediums resulting in new design ideas. Second, interface with students in Design and Art schools through internship programs allowing synergy between the traditional and the modern. This would also include open workshops with all those who are passionate about art and would like to come to Devrai Art Village. Third, developing story telling, arts and crafts including painting, puppetry and film animation.