Using Thanjavur painting to empower women

Aspirants are learning the nuances of Thanjavur painting at a workshop conducted by a city artist who hopes to inspire women to earn a living during their free time.

Daughter of L. Ramanujam, an acclaimed practitioner and certified teacher of Thanjavur painting, R. Lavanya took over Sri Ranga Tanjore Art Gallery, set up by her father, on Amma Mandapam Road at Srirangam in 2018. She won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Tamil Nadu government in 2014.

“My father taught me the skills as a child, but I did not think much of it. In 2014, I returned to the gallery and saw women learning the craft and earning through it. Inspired, I too began teaching. In the last two years, I teach while Appa looks on from the sidelines,” she said.

With her new found responsibility, Ms. Lavanya hopes to empower women. Many approach the classes while in financial distress. For them, she teaches for free.

“I always aim to make my students financially independent with this craft. Many come without knowing how to sketch. I tell them they do not need any special skills, just an interest and vigour will do,” she said.

She believes that women are artistic by nature and express it in many ways — be it cooking, combing their hair, or through beautiful kolam drawings welcoming guests to their houses.

Ordinarily, a 50-day course costs ₹12,000. Students from other States and cities travel to Srirangam, stay in hostels and learn from Ms. Lavanya.

“I have students from as far as the Netherlands now. Of them, at least 50% have taken up Thanjavur painting as a business,” she said.

Students are taught from scratch — from preparing the board in the traditional method to framing them so that they need not depend on anyone else.

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