By Charudutta Panigrahi
Odisha always deserved a spiffy crafts museum and Kala Bhoomi is the one. Spacious and breezy, the infrastructure is smartly designed to showcase the typical Odia social infrastructure with an ‘agana’ (courtyard), tulasi chauraha (tulsi plant kept in the courtyard and revered), a baula tree or a neem tree in the middle of the courtyard and the walls coloured in mud/clay colour (light brown) with brown tiles roofing. The entire ensemble is in brown, different shades of brown. What is striking is the combination of verandas and the courtyards.
Each section of the museum opens up to a wide, spartan veranda. The stretch of the veranda mirrors the pan of the open mindedness of the Odia craftsmen. Odisha craft has unique character – subtle and yet colourful, distinct and yet inclusive. The saree motifs, the tribal metal implements, the stonework, as examples, are delicately designed. Kala Bhoomi, literally translated to Craft Land in English is unparallel in the eastern part of India and is among the top bracket in India.
Museum is not a place to horde or stash crafts. It is a crucial tour down the legacy route. It is almost like revisiting the family album. Kala Bhoomi transported me to the ‘nostalgia of last mile creativity’ in Odisha. Where all this had begun or begins. The genesis of Odia identity. A visit to Kala Bhoomi should be a permanent fixture for school students and college students, from all over the state and outside too. The management of Kala Bhoomi should use ICTs (Information & Communication Technologies) to showcase the centre in social media to reach to the younger population. I remember going to Nandan Kanan on school trips which were exciting and educative. Kala Bhoomi has a café which can cater to the crowds and make the outing interesting. The café can be a good hangout. I have not seen Kala Bhoomi during functions, but it is an ideal place to hold crafts related gigs, events, workshops, residencies, talks and soirees. Networking with the embassies of countries like France, Austria, Japan, US, UK, Indonesia, would be beneficial to the entire art community of Odisha and India.
Presentation of crafts is important than the population of crafts, is what I believe in. It is not only the number of artefacts or the collection which is important but also the way they are spread. Kala Bhoomi has used space rationally with scope for further expansion, if need be. That shows.
Odisha craft has strong Regional symbiosis and the influence of South Asian motifs, hues, characters is well known and warrants detailed display and propagation. There cannot be a more appropriate platform than Kala Bhoomi to do this. Space could be dedicated to a R&D centre inside Kala Bhoomi where the students/artists could spend time researching, learning and promoting the ‘international connect’ of Odia craft. This could be a specialised residency program. This would add the contemporary global vein to Odia dexterity. Odisha needs to promote art & crafts in a rehashed style. More futuristic. Kala Bhoomi has the panache to take us back to the future. The bandwidth needs to be built. The civil society organisations of Odisha should lend hand to the management of Kala Bhoomi. In many ways Kala Bhoomi can contribute to the ‘Look East’ policy of the governments.
I am not talking about the collection and display at the centre because this would keep changing keeping in view the thematic changes, trends, the variety, the produces etc. But having such a dedicated, modern centre for art and crafts is in itself an achievement.
It is our responsibility to strengthen the centre, its outreach and its effectiveness. For the verandas of Kala Bhoomi would be the new space for Odia aesthetics to flower. Verandas open mind spaces, and verandas breed comity, the epicentre of Odisha’s soft power.
After all ‘danda pinda’, terraces and ‘baranda’ (from veranda in English) is the Odia ground zero.
The stone at Kala Bhoomi, so appropriately tells you that ‘the soul of India shines through the skilful hands of Odisha.”