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Remembering Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Remembering Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
To celebrate the contribution of Late Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, India International Centre in association with Delhi Crafts Council has come up with a programme in the national Capital.

The three-day programme will be held at various venues, where discussions, exhibition of photographs and installations along with performances will be held. The whole endeavour is to focus on Kamaladevi’s seminal role in the National movement and her contribution to the making of modern India.

After the inauguration on April 16, there will be a discussion on April 18 by Dr Aparna Basu, historian and former President, All India Women’s Conference and this discussion will be followed by a performance titled- ‘Kamaladevi Ki Janam Kahani’ by Patachitra artist, Gurupada Chitrakar from West Bengal.

Followed by a discussion titled- ‘Kamaladevi’s Vision For Handloom And Handicraft Through The Cooperative Movement’ will take place where speakers like Gulshan Nanda, former Chairperson, Central Cottage Industries Emporium and KB Johar, Former MD, Central Cottage Industries Emporium will discuss the difference Late Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay made for the craftsmen and the industry. 

On April 20, a discussion titled ‘Reminiscing’ will be held where speakers like Jasleen Dhamija, veteran Indian textile art historian, crafts expert and former UN Advisor, will participate. 

The discussion will be followed by another discussion titled- ‘Kamaladeviji and Theatre: Sangeet Natak Akademi and SMM Theatre Crafts Trust’, where her association with theatre and crafts will be discussed. The speakers will be Usha Malik, former Secretary, Sangeet Natak Akademi.

On April 22, in seminar rooms I to III, Kamaladevi Complex, a roundtable will be held on ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and The Making of Modern India.’ Speakers at the roundtable will include, Gopal Gandhi, Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, Dr Devaki Jain, Prof Mridula Mukherjee, Dr Radha Kumar, Ashoke Chatterjee, Dr Shobita Punja, Mirnal Pande among others.

The evening will have a solo presentation in Hindi by Bhagirathi Bai from Seagull Theatre, Guwahati titled- ‘Kamaladevi-Yaadon Ke Kuch Panne’ at 6:30 in the evening at Gandhi- King Plaza. The play, in association with IGNCA, is based on ‘Bharathiya Mahileyara Swathanthra Horata’, a translation by well-known Kannada writer, K Vaidehi, of Indian Women’s Freedom Struggle by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. 

The Late Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was a person with many roles. She was a freedom fighter, social activist, actor, politician, etc. all rolled into one. But above everything, she is remembered for her phenomenal role in reviving the traditional handicrafts of India during the post Independence era. 

Kamaladevi was also a key figure in the international socialist feminist movement. From the late 1920s to the 40s and beyond, Kamaladevi became not only an emissary and spokesperson on Indian women and political independence. She travelled widely across the world to promote her causes.  

She set up a series of crafts museums to hold and archive India's indigenous arts and crafts that served as a storehouse for indigenous know-how. This included the Theatre Crafts Museum in the national Capital. 

Thus began the second phase of life’s work in rehabilitation of people as well their lost crafts, she is considered responsible for the great revival of Indian handicrafts and handloom, in the post-Independence era, which is considered her greatest legacy to modern India. 

She is best known as the one who revived Indian handicrafts. She promoted arts and crafts, and instituted the National Awards for Master Craftsmen, and a culmination of her enterprising spirit lead to the setting up Central Cottage Industries Emporia and Sangeet Natak Akademi. 

She also set up the National School of Drama and later headed the Sangeet Natak Akademi, and was also a member of UNESCO. She died on October 29, 1988 in Bombay. 
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