What began as Kunjika Singh Jadeja’s personal reconnaissance of artwork to decorate her ancestral home in Gauridad soon became a cause in its own right. ArtLocal, as she would name it, is Kunjika’s revivalist initiative that breathes in a new life into the slow-fading art workmanship of Gujarat’s Kathiawar region.
Situated only twelve kilometers north of Rajkot on the Morbi highway, Gauridad counted amongst its talukas and was presided over by Jadeja offshoots. Apart from being known for birthing some of history’s greatest maestros such as Gandhi, Jinnah, Patel, Dhirubhai Ambani and the Maharaja of Nawnagar, Gujarat’s peninsular region is also where some exquisite crafts originated. Single ikat, beadwork, ari embroidery, applique work and Gandhiji’s khadi legacy lead a larger gamut of creative genius that we Indians laud with pride. Over time, modern-day phenomenons such as the industrial and digital phenomenons cast artisanal communities worldwide into a bleak shadow. Similarly, Kathiawar’s lesser-known community of hand & canvas painters dwindled at the hands of printed art copies that could be purchased by the masses for a fraction of their original price.
Due to the plunging demand of hand-painted artwork, these artisans lost the incentive to professionalise their skill, and for those who did, received a pittance for their talent and workmanship. All until contemporary initiatives to revive India’s fading art forms knocked at their door, and change made a promising, albeit slow entry. ArtLocal joins this fray of philanthropic platforms that aims to bridge India’s rich ensemble of rural artists with a more global connoisseurship.
Kunjika succinctly adds, “In the process of decorating my own home & commissioning artwork for Gauridad, I realised that although these artists were pretty much self-taught and absolutely fabulous, they lacked exposure to the world and didn't know the right painting techniques and styles. Above all, they lacked access to a platform that would do justice to their hard work. To ensure what I wanted, I would provide the artists the required materials and would brainstorm with them the expected results for hours. The whole exercise really paid off as they would deliver fantastic masterpieces in lesser time than I expected. Soon enough, people who saw those paintings in my home started requesting me to get these made for them as well. And thus, ArtLocal was born!”
Some of ArtLocal's commissioned works
ArtLocal initially revolved around the local artists of Kathiawar, but has extended to unite artists from all over the country, whose handiwork it proudly exhibits to art patrons all over the world. Social media played an important role in this showcasing process and has ensured ArtLocal’s consistent outreach to favourable audiences. Kunjika personally oversees the quality of work that is being mediated by ArtLocal through some set guidelines that are to be followed by all her commissioned artists. These include the materials to be used, the methods to be adopted, the format of art execution and so on. Wherever relevant, she supplies the art materials to ArtLocal’s artists such that their patrons receive only the finest quality of artisanal brilliance.
Kunjika’s initial access to likeminded and sincere patrons of the arts has added further impetus to her venture, and she optimistically says, “the beginning of ArtLocal is definitely a milestone for us and the time is not far away when we would be blessed enough to have our own art gallery wherein upcoming and master artists would be able to showcase their work side by side. Till then, ArtLocal definitely is the one-stop destination for art lovers and artists.” Its symbiotic approach of helping global art lovers to gain access to diverse handiworks on the one hand, and helping generate employment opportunities for artisans who would otherwise be at the brink of extinction makes ArtLocal one amongst today’s growing set of responsible consumership enterprises.
“As a child I was extremely fond of collecting hand-painted greeting cards & trinkets from all over the world. The colors and the vivid aura of a hand-drawn image was simply majestic to my young mind back then, little did I know then that as I would grow up, I would still search for the lost glory of hand crafted artworks.” And thus, her ever-strong spirit of inquisition united Kunjika to a cause that she had carefully nourished in her passionately creative heart.