UNESCO Paharpur Terracotta Project, 2017

Over the years, the National Crafts Council of Bangladesh (NCCB), has played an important role in promoting local crafts and thus uplifting the livelihood of neglected craftsmen across the country. By acknowledging their work, the Council has worked to preserve, restore and encourage artisans to continue their work.

With an effort to acknowledge their creativity and age old traditions, recently the NCCB, with the help of UNESCO, arranged a workshop for rural artisans of Mithapur and Jalamalpur, and their products were subsequently displayed at the Terracotta Fair and Exhibition 2017. 

The primary goal of the initiative was to pinpoint the needs of the 'Pal' community and identify talented artisans skilled in the making of terracotta plaques and other clay items. 

The workshop was attended by 26 craftsmen, who were encouraged to break away from conventional norms and to try incorporate contemporary approaches to their work. 

Under the direction of Chandra Shekhar Shaha, who is also the president of NCCB, the participants of the workshop experimented with patterns and designs, and among the 26, the works of 20 were displayed at the Fair.

Bangladesh prides itself on a rich pottery tradition however, the new generation of the craftsmen are no longer interested to continue this vocation. Although some have retained the profession of their forefathers, the younger generations are not too keen on following their footsteps. 

Contributing factors for this apathy are small monetary returns and lack of appreciation of their profession. Another important factor for the decline of this industry is improper marketing of the products. To make ends meet, artisans are compromising on quality and this is having a spiralling effect on the declining market. 

Through the Terracotta Fair and Exhibition 2017, NCCB and UNESCO tried to create a wider market for their clay figurines, pottery and other terracotta items. 

The Pals of Bangladesh represent a unique culture and tradition. In order to survive, this community needs patronisation and wider acceptance of their trade. 

And endeavours like the Terracotta Fair and Exhibition 2017, held between 10 and 18 February, 2017 at the Bangladesh National Museum, can hope to achieve exactly that.