In year 1983 when Mrs. Gauri Mishra started SEWA Mithila for women through art & craft in Madhubani, little did she know that even after three generations, her granddaughter Ihitashri Shandilya will continue to take up the cause of educating Indian population about the heritage art of India. An NIT-Kurukshetra graduate and an employee of IBM, SAP and Patni, Ihitashri longed to be involved in preserving the art form of her native place for which her family has been standing tall since past four decades.
From where it all started
MITHILAsmita, translating to ‘The Pride of Mithila’ was started by Ihitashri in year 2010 when she was on her maternity leave from IBM. She had grown up getting inspired from her grandmother, a prominent social activist in Madhubani. SEWA Mithila had been rightfully providing livelihood to the ‘Madhubani’ artists since its inception but because of the bad health of Mrs. Gauri Mishra, things were not moving for the 15000 artists of the region who were supported by the organization. The reasons were primarily the lack of an able leader in absence of the founder, involvement of multiple middlemen and assigning inappropriate work to the artists. Speaking about the vulnerability of the art & artist, Ihitashri said, “When you put a time constraint on an artist’s work, then he/she is bound to lose the creativity and using wrong means to compensate for low remunerations & less time. In Madhubani art form, use of instruments like scale, bangle and even pencil is not correct as these paintings are entirely handmade.”
The existence of Mithila paintings can be traced back to 14th century but according to the mythology every Maithil woman is doing it since the time Lord Rama got married to Sita. But in the process of commercialization we were close to losing this heritage art form attributing to the following main culprits:
- Lack of art history education
- Lack of proper marketing to these art forms
- Low remunerations and recognition to the artists
- Putting time constraints in creating the art form.
To address these pain points, MITHILAsmita was formed towards the end of year 2010, focusing on following:
a) Offering a great marketing platform via means of documentaries.
b) Sharing the art knowledge
c) Benefiting and saving the interest of the artists
d) Contributing to the development of Madhubani area
Though commenced with a folk art gallery in Bangalore, MITHILAsmita launched their web portal last year to increase their reach across the country. The folk art is still dominated by offline players but MITHILAsmita is trying to indent the online space with the perfect match of expertise and experience.
- Ihitashri has been a supply chain consultant and a CCM (Catalogue Content Management) expert before and believes that using IT for a series of products to arrange can be very effective marketing.
- No two art forms are same. They all differ at a point as the use of any instrument is not recommended. Avoiding mass production of art (and hence giving enough time to artists) can take care of this aspect.
- Access of the heritage art to the people around the globe.
The organization has also worked towards patenting Mithila paintings as a Geographical Indication.
Team and Focus
Led by Ihitashri, MITHILAsmita is now a 5 member strong team with her Grandmother Mrs. Gauri Mishra and Kalika Stern, Executive Director, Society for Folk Arts Preservation, Inc. USA on advisory board.
“Our focus will remain in Madhubani only as we have not yet reached the level we targeted. We have made a model and are trying to make it work. We would be more than happy to share it with other people from various parts of the country who are willing to work for the art forms in their areas. We can support these social entrepreneurs and open a stream of profession for the traditional artists,” added Ihitashri.
Because of their unique business model, MITHILAsmita is now an approved teaching case study at MDI Gurgaon.
Online Marketing Strategy & Impact
MITHILAsmita focuses on art education which has given many conversions. Only in recent past, they have started leveraging on SEO & social media. The organization works with over 120 Madhubani artists on hand painted sarees, scarves & apparels, home décor and other accessories. Speaking further on marketing Ihitashri mentioned “We hope that corporate will be soon buying our products in their social responsible policies and use them for gifting purposes.”
MITHILAsmita is an NJFP (Not Just For Profit) organization and works directly with the Madhubani community. Recently, they have honored artists with Mithila Ratn and also distributed solar lamps to over 40 homes.
Ihitashri and her team is driven by the vision of – ‘Leading a good life, but letting others lead a respectable one as well.” We wish her all the best in the endeavor of spreading the heritage art education among masses.