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US forges connect with India through green crafts

New Delhi, April 21 - The US is forging new cultural connections with the eco-friendly Indian arts and crafts sector by providing them a platform for promotion.

It is also encouraging Indian children to take part in creative crafts workshops to learn about the indigenous green heritage and the issues related to it.

A two-day Earth Day Mela at the American Center here brought more than 550 children from schools and the streets of the capital to participate in textile painting, green tote bag making, recycled puppet making, musical instrument making and art theatre workshops.

The American Center collaborated with non-profit arts and crafts organisaions like the Kriti Team, Cinedardar, Worldwide Fund of Nature and All India Artisans and Craftworkers' Welfare Association to take the traditional arts of India to children.

'Art and culture is a great way to promote a cause. We see art as a way to discuss issues like environment which is on the top of the US government policy. We are encouraging involvement of children so that we can address the issue of energy efficacy and help them make their individual choices,' Donald Maynard of the American embassy's culture affairs department told IANS.

The crafts organisation, which found a platform to showcase some of their unique and rare ethnic products and interact with children, said they were looking forward to greater cooperation with the American Center and the US.

The Arman Vocational Centre, a rehabilitation centre which is located in Tihar Jail number 9, was invited by the American Wives Association last month to discuss the possibility of a skills exchange project between American and Indian jails.

The non-profit group which showcased ethnic green jewellery designed by inmates of Tihar Jail was open to learning new vocational skills for prisoners from American jails and conducting a jewellery designing course in the US.

'We teach male and female prisoners to make jewellery from eco-friendly products like wood, coir, natural beads, semi-precious stones, terra cotta and crochet-ware. They have learnt to paint on textiles as well,' designer Neeru Arya of the non-profit organisation told IANS.

The organisation has also taught jewellery and dress designing to prisoners in countries like Mauritius and Dubai.

It is engaged in design-based arts rehabilitation projects across India.

Jahangir Butt of the All-India Artisans and Craftsworkers and Welfare Association said the Earth Day carnival has enabled the organisation to display Saharanpur wood work from Uttar Pradesh for the first time at the American Center for new audiences and children.

'We work with 80 crafts organisation in the country and they need marketing and display opportunities. The wood artisans of Saharanpur are not connected to the market and they do have access to design-based innovations. We are looking for government and international support for the Saharanpur wood artisans,' Butt told IANS.

Hundreds of refugees from Faridabad and destitute women and children from Orissa, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh found an outlet to exhibit their crafts ranging from hand-woven and manually made clothes, painted T-shirts, eco-paper from recycled material and hand-crafted jewellery and accessories under the banner of NGO, Kriti Team.

'We also taught children how to make puppet from recycled material and staged a puppet theatre, 'Kalpataru' (based on the book Giving Tree) with the puppets that they made),' said Anchal Kapoor of the Kriti Team.

The ethnic crafts carnival was significant because US first lady Michelle Obama was fond of Indian indigenous arts and crafts product - which she had purchased in large number from Crafts Museum during her trip to India in 2010 with President Barack Obama, a senior craftsperson from Uttar Pradesh at the carnival said.


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