Stir the still air. That’s the beautiful, reflective thought that prompted Jatin Das to start collecting different types of hand fans. For most, a hand fan is just a regular household utility item. But for Das, it is a piece of traditional craft that needs to be preserved.
“I love traditional art forms of all cultures,” says the eminent painter and sculptor. “I have a collection of about 6,000 hand fans that I started collecting 40 years ago. My madness and craziness for art and traditional crafts drove me to keep collecting them. But I am trying to control my mad impulse to keep acquiring more of them as I now want to focus on my painting and sculpture,” he adds.
A selection of his fan collection is currently being showcased in an exhibition titled Pankha: A Collection of Hand Fans from the Indian Subcontinent and Beyond in the capital. This exhibition showcases “only 20 per cent of my collection. The rest are preserved in my trunks,” says Das.
During his journey of pankha collection he came across many beautiful fans hand-made by women. He says, “The craft of fan-making is mainly done by women all over India because they have patience for embroidery and sewing work. Traditional hand fans from other countries are very different from Indian hand fans, primarily because the materials used to make the fans are very varied — ranging from bamboo, khajoor and palm leaves to feathers, silk, wood and fabrics.” Ruing the fading interest in traditional handicrafts, and stressing on the need to take steps to ensure their survival and a sustained interest in them, he says, “To preserve Indian handicrafts, the government should create a museum for different crafts, and introduce Indian handicrafts as a subject so that students take interest in our traditions and culture. Exhibitions serve as a catalyst for revival of traditional crafts because they are dying with time.”
The Pankha exhibition has been designed by his son Siddharth Das with his team of eight art students.