THE KEEPER OF HERITAGE
In 2001, at the age of 25, Shanta bai won the National Master Craftsperson Award for her creation, a 5ft x 3ft embroidered wall hanging. Shanta bai is a Lambani tribal woman from Sandur, in Karnataka’s Bellary district, and at the time of her win was the youngest recipient of the award.
Shanta bai was one of the 300 Lambani women embroiders that the organisation Dastkar worked with. Provided with a platform and infrastructure, Shanta bai created her masterpiece under the guidance of the current Dastkar chairperson Laila Tyabji. Tyabji herself describes Shanta bai as talented, feisty and incredibly bright, someone who rebelled against social norms at the age of 18 by walking out of a bad marriage and then having a child out of wedlock.
Shanta bai is one of the governing members of the Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra, a Sandur-based society that has been working, in tandem with Dastkar, for the renaissance of Lambani craftsmanship, bringing it national and international attention so as to make indigenous arts and crafts a source of regular income for the Lambani women. The fact that despite Shanta bai’s established talent and skill, she and other practitioners like her remain largely obscure is a sad testament to how neglected tribal art forms have become, thought of as obsolete in the face of technology. However, as Shanta bai keeps practicing her art, supported by Dastkar and the Kendra, one knows that the efforts to show this craftsmanship as a living tradition, and not dead art form, are going on valiantly.