Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Crowdfunding campaign launched in Hong Kong to set up art school in India

Entrepreneur Yosha Gupta was smitten by Madhubani painting after she received a high-end handbag featuring the art form; she now wants to help the painters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 10:52pm

A Hong Kong-based entrepreneur has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build a school in India to keep classic Indian art flowing and equip girls from poor families with the means to make ends meet.

The campaign hopes to raise US$15,000 by the end of this month to build a school to teach what is known as Madhubani painting to young girls in the Indian state of Bihar.

The art work dates back to the seventh century BC in Bihar. Hindu gods, plants, animals and geometric shapes are hallmarks of the art.

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Madhubani art has been traditionally dominated by women as a way of earning extra income while their husbands worked as farmers, labourers or small business owners.

Yosha Gupta, who spearheads the campaign together with a non-profit organisation, wants to establish the school for girls in the hope that by teaching girls the ancient art, it will help preserve it for the next generation, while at the same time give practitioners the ability to be financially independent.

“The idea is once these young girls learn the art form they can keep painting even after they get married,” she said.

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Most women in India submit to becoming housewives after marriage, making it difficult – if not impossible – to get a job.

Bihar is the third most populous state in India and is home to over 100 million people. Around 33 per cent of Bihar’s population live below the poverty line – defined as those earning less than HK$94 per month in rural areas or less than HK$122 in urban areas.

A Madhubani school already exists, but because it is made of mud it washes away after heavy rain and has to be reconstructed each time. Gupta hopes the money to be raised will allow for the construction of a larger permanent school made of durable construction materials.

Gupta moved to Hong Kong eight years ago and worked in the financial technology industry. She started her business “completely as a passion project” after she got a high-end brand handbag hand painted by a Madhubani artist.

After seeing her bag, friends and family liked the design and asked if her bag was a limited-edition product released by the brand. When she explained to them that she had the bag hand-painted, they suggested she start her own collection.

Today, she sells a variety of fashion accessories all featuring hand-painted Madhubani art designs.

She became aware of the artwork through her mother who was an artist in India.

Madhubani artist Pratima Bharti, 35, has been creating Madhubani artwork since childhood and later taught her husband, DK Bharti, after they got married. The folk art has been a tradition in her family handed down by her parents and grandparents.

Since Gupta commissioned them to produce artwork for her brand’s products, the Bhartis have seen their income rise significantly.

“The income from this helps us to pay the fees for our three sons’ education,” Pratima Bharti said.