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In a rhino stronghold, indigenous wood-carvers cut through stereotypes

first_imgLocal artisans near northeast India’s Kaziranga National Park say their wildlife-inspired woodcraft is an expression of nature-friendly values, and counters stereotypes of tribal people as antagonistic to conservation.Small, locally owned workshops face competition from big-city businesses who control prime retail locations and can undercut their prices.Carving a fast-growing local wood by hand, sculptors say theirs is a green craft, and should be promoted and supported by the government. Sitting on a wooden plank on the floor of his tiny workshop, Kushal Das meticulously uses his chisel and gouge to give the finishing touches to the rhinoceros he’s spent over an hour carving out of a 20-centimeter (8-inch) slab of wood. He pauses for a moment, inspecting his handwork with a critical eye, before making a few final adjustments and handing the sculpture to his assistant, Deepak Bora, who is responsible for dyeing it in bright colors.Das, 48, and Bora, 19, are among some 100 woodcraft artisans running workshops and selling handmade art pieces — mostly wooden replicas of various animals — near Kaziranga National Park in northeastern India’s Assam State. The park is the global stronghold of the greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), the species Das’s latest statue depicts. According to a 2018 census, 2,413 rhinos live in the park, around two-thirds of the species’ total population.Woodcarver Kushal Das (right) and his assistant Deepak Bora at work in Das’s woodcarving workshop-cum-shop at Rajabari, Kaziranga. Image by Sumit Das.Kaziranga National Park attracts a massive tourist flow, with the 2017-2018 tourist season recording 177,431 visitors. Wood-carvers like Das and Bora rely on these tourists to keep their business afloat.“The wildlife tourists visiting the park like to buy souvenirs from Kaziranga and their most obvious choice is traditionally crafted rhinos,” says Das, whose carving workshop and stall, in the village of Rajabari, is close to the Agaratoli range of Kaziranga National Park and sits by a national highway that connects Assam with the neighboring northeastern states of India. “We have our peak selling season during the months the park is kept open for tourists. For the rest of the year, our customers are primarily the people from different parts of Assam and the neighboring states who ply by the national highway.”According to Das, approximately 100 families around the park depend on wood carving for their livelihoods. Many of these families belong to different local tribal communities, such as the Mishing, Karbi and Adivasi, or so-called “tea tribes.” Marginalized in the state’s politics, these groups have also been portrayed as detrimental to conservation. Even official conservation discourses have accommodated such views: a 2005 UNESCO-IUCN-WII technical report described Karbi and Mishing communities as antagonistic to the park’s values, saying they were “still to come to terms with the creation/declaration of the additional areas of the park.” In 2017, a poster used for conservation communication in Manas National Park, a protected area in western Assam, racially profiled Adivasi communities and portrayed them as encroachers on the park’s land. The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) later apologized for the poster. In 1994, an article in the journal Pachyderm tended to only discuss tribes like the Karbi or Bodo as threats to wildlife and conservation efforts.The wood-carvers from these communities stand in stark contrast to such negative portrayals: they practice an eco-friendly art through which they express conservation nuggets.The tools of a woodcarver: chisels, gouges, hammers and a hacksaw. Image by Sumit Das.Wood carving and its potentialsWood carving is a traditional art form of Assam, once patronized by the Ahom kings of eastern Assam. As such, the practice even today doesn’t involve the use of any sort of machinery. Everything is done manually. “Being a handicraft, it’s a green art,” Das says. “The woodcraft we practice is completely eco-friendly.”Kaziranga’s carvers work with Gambhar wood (Gmelina arborea), locally known as gomari gos, from a fast-growing deciduous tree that occurs naturally throughout Assam and other parts of India. The wood is sourced from nearby villages, where the trees grow in abundance. Depending on its size and quality, a dried trunk costs anywhere from 1,800 to 8,300 rupees ($24 to $112), Das says.There are two kinds of people employed in a wood-carving workshop: the artisan, or mistiri, and the assistant, or jogali. The artisan is often the owner of the workshop, while the assistant is a semi-skilled daily-wage laborer employed by the former. While the artisan’s income depends on the amount of finished products he can sell, the assistant gets a fixed daily wage of around 350 to 430 rupees ($5 to $6 per). “If you are lucky enough to work with a good mistiri there could also be incentive per carving. However, that depends a lot on experience and age as well,” says Bora, who has worked as Das’s assistant for over two years.“Till date the highest sale I’ve recorded on a day is about 26,000 [$350]. That was in the peak season earlier this year,” says Das, who puts his average monthly income at 29,000 rupees ($390).Woodcarvings of rhinos crafted by Das and Bora and ready for sale in Das’s stall. Image by Sumit Das.Artisans maintain that business has improved in the last couple of years. While Das is a relatively new entrant into the trade, starting his shop in 2008, Anup and Khajan, who run the neighboring stall, have been in the business for 15 years. Now both in their late twenties, they started working in woodcraft after dropping out of school in 2003. “The business has seen an uptick in the last couple years with more and more tourists visiting Kaziranga and dropping by to buy our works,” they say. “Also, locally, people’s buying power has improved over the years. They are now more interested in buying decorative items than they used to be 10 years ago.”However, there has not yet been any concerted effort to link wildlife tourism and conservation to the handicraft industry in Kaziranga, says Deep Jyoti Gurung, a doctoral researcher at Tezpur University, Assam. “It’s a fact that ensuring decent alternative livelihoods for local forest-dependent communities helps a big way in earning their support for conservation initiatives,” says Gurung, who co-authored a study on Kaziranga’s handicraft industry and wildlife tourism. “If we succeed in creating a stable market tapping on the huge wildlife tourist inflow Kaziranga draws every year, the handicraft industry around the park has tremendous potential to create livelihoods.”The woodcarving workshop run by Anup and Khajan at Rajabari, Kaziranga. Now in their late 20s, the men have been in the business for 15 years. Image by Sumit Das.But little has been done so far, Gurung says. One problem is the lack of a regulation or standard price rates in the handicraft market. As a result, cheap imported items flooding the market make it hard for local artisans to compete. Locals also have little access to the prime spots for attracting potential buyers. The stalls closest to major tourist hubs are owned by big businessmen from outside Kaziranga who don’t run workshops and instead sell items sourced at a low price from disadvantaged artisans, Gurung says.The industry is also lacking in proper promotion, says Gurung. “There’s little online promotion and selling of Kaziranga’s handicrafts,” he says. “The industry has to tap into what the internet has to offer. And while promoting, an emphasis on the fact that Kaziranga’s handicraft is a sustainable green art anchored on a local tradition could attract more international buyers.”A theatrical scene of Kaziranga National Park, crafted in bamboo by amateur artist Golap Kutum. Image by Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya.Conservation nuggets through handcrafted artDespite the challenges, Kaziranga’s artisans continue producing handcrafted works of art, not only to make a living but also to express their opinions and concerns about conservation issues.“See, this is my handmade Kaziranga National Park,” says Golap Kutum, displaying a photograph on mobile phone. It shows a tableau of various life-size wild animals as well as a forest guard, all crafted from bamboo cane. In the middle of this art installation is a heap of ashes of an effigy of a rhino poacher, burned by villagers celebrating rhino conservation and condemning poaching. This theatrical installation of bamboo-made figures was Kutum’s creation, which he handcrafted on the occasion of the Assamese festival of Magh Bihu in January this year.“In the installation, I wanted to show how important conservation is and that the local communities have a stake in conservation efforts. It’s time local communities were duly acknowledged,” says Kutum, a resident of Baligaon, a village in Golaghat district abutting Kaziranga National Park. Kutum is a not a professional artisan; rather, he uses his bamboo craftsmanship to express his opinions and messages on a range of social issues, including those related to conservation and the environment. He drives an electronic rickshaw near Kaziranga for a living.A Karbi youth, dressed in traditional Karbi tribal clothes, holding a jambili athon totem pole. Image by Angtong Engti Kathar.Some of the stalls near Kaziranga sell a type woodcraft known as jambili athon, a traditional art from the Karbi, a local tribe inhabiting fringe villages of Kaziranga National Park.Considered a sacred totem of the Karbi, and made of bengwoi ke-er (Wrightia coccinea) wood, a jambili athon consists of a central axis and a whorl of four branches, all with beautiful carvings on them. Carved birds, symbolizing the various clans of the Karbi tribe, perch on the tips of the branches and atop the central axis. It is forbidden for the Karbi to kill the species of birds that embellish the jambili athon.“The very fact that we use birds to symbolize our different clans in the jambili athon totem poles shows that the Karbi worldview is intrinsically rooted in nature,” says Lindak Hanse, a veteran baroi — one of the specially skilled Karbi artists who are entitled to carve jambili athon. Hanse says he believes these nature-friendly values behind the traditional Karbi woodcraft of jambili athon should be included in conservation discourses.In Kaziranga, wood-carvers believe that, in addition to earning them a living, their works serve the cause of conservation. “The keepsake animal replicas we make help people [enhance] their appreciation of the wildlife — or at least make them familiar with species they haven’t seen in reality,” Das says.Kushal Das carving an eight-inch one-horned rhinoceros. It takes Das about one and a half hours to complete the carving. Image by Sumit Das.‘We carve rhinos, don’t kill them’The tribal artisans like Kutum, a Mishing; Hanse, a Karbi; and Anup and Khajan, Adivasis, near Kaziranga damn the stereotype of tribals as detrimental and antagonistic to conservation efforts and Kaziranga National Park’s values.Pointing to a half-carved rhino replica in his workshop, Anup says: “You see this piece. It takes a lot of effort to make this rhino replica. In comparison to the efforts put, the money we get is meager. We keep clinging to this painstaking business just because we love Kaziranga and these animals.”“If one or two members of a particular community go astray for some reasons, or go against some decisions of the park, will you hold the entire community responsible for that? Definitely you won’t,” says Hanse. “Therefore these gross negative portrayals of tribals as ecological villains are apparently fallacious.”Kutum says that since time immemorial the tribals have nurtured the forest and have in turn been nurtured by it in an age-old symbiotic relationship. “In Kaziranga, we carve rhinos, don’t kill them,” he says.A rhino woodcarving of six inches made by Das. Image by Sumit Das.Banner Image: Kushal Das at work in his woodcarving workshop at Rajabari, Kaziranga. Image by Sumit Das.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Isabel Esterman Animals, Archive, Biodiversity, Conservation, Conservation Solutions, Environment, Happy-upbeat Environmental, Indigenous Peoples, Mammals, One-horned Rhinos, Poaching, Rhinos, Wildlife center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more


Streaming Controversy Can We Really Trust The Reported Numbers

first_imgNews With recent accusations being leveled at some streaming services over the accuracy of their subscriber and play count numbers, here’s a look at how services are keeping their facts straightBrian HaackGRAMMYs Sep 26, 2017 – 12:51 pm It’s been another banner year for music streaming services — in fact, Nielsen estimates that 2017 has seen music streaming usage increase 76 percent year-over-year. But what if these robust streaming numbers aren’t exactly accurate? Would we even know if the system has been manipulated?For starters, let’s take a look at how the likes of the RIAA and Nielsen and charting services like Billboard calculate streaming numbers. In the modern era of digital music streaming, the dated way of ranking the Billboard 200 by physical album sales alone doesn’t really work anymore. By this time of the year in 2014, not one single artist had achieved a platinum-selling album for that year, though both Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen would both clear 1 million units sold by year’s end.This drop-off in sales prompted Billboard to begin ranking chart placement in late 2014 using Nielsen’s new “album equivalent unit” instead of physical record sales alone. With this new methodology, 10 individual track sales, one full album sale, or 1,500 on-demand streams from a single album are all weighted equally when ranking the Billboard 200.However, with this new era of counting streams come new complications and new concerns from artists and industry professionals alike. In recent months, there have been accusations made by foreign publications and also directly from artists, claiming that streaming counts and subscriber numbers are being artificially inflated or otherwise manipulated.Speaking to Forbes, Antonis Karalis, product architect and co-founder of tech company HPCmusic, was quick to point out that streaming services do far more than simply track and report the raw streaming numbers.”They use statistical processes for estimating the relationships among different variables like users’ behavior,” Karalis explains. “These models are really accurate … the confidence level that the industry operates on identifying manipulation is above 90%.”However, Jordan Mendler, president and CTO of The Veloz Group, was less confident. “A company like Spotify can track user behavior and user agents to assess if a given user is a real person or a bot,” said Mendler. “[But] it would be fairly easy to manipulate the system simply by emulating the behavior of a real user.”So what does this all mean for the industry and the reliability of streaming numbers?Forbes also spoke to Eric Holt, assistant professor of music business at Belmont University, one of the country’s top music schools. Holt instead laid the impetus not on the streaming services themselves to spot fake listeners accounts, but rather at the feet of the charting services like Nielsen and Billboard to acknowledge that streaming is here to stay, and it’s time to update their counting algorithms.”Possible stream manipulation aside,” he said, “it only makes sense to me that in order to remain relevant Billboard has to create better-measuring tools to fit the current and future music industry realities rather than running to keep up with them after the fact.”Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” Foo Fighters Net Billboard No. 1sRead more Streaming ‘Controversy’: Can We Really Trust The Reported Numbers? Email Facebook Twitter How Do We Keep Music Streaming Numbers Honest? streaming-controversy-can-we-really-trust-reported-numberslast_img read more


Luca movie review A different approach and Tovino Thomas strikes gold

first_imgFacebookTovino Thomas, one of the most in-demand young heroes in Mollywood, is back with his new movie Luca that hit the theatres across Kerala on Friday, June 28. The film is directed by debutante Arun Bose and portrays the story of Luca (Tovino Thomas), a young man who creates magic out of scrap materials. The film, as expected, is a mix of various genres. In one angle, Luca is a breezy love story, and in other angles, it is more of a crime thriller.Luca: The magic of artThe film primarily revolves around the life of Luca. The happy-go-lucky young man falls in love with Niharika (Ahaana Krishna) after meeting her during an exhibition. As their romantic affair evolves, the plot takes an unexpected turn following a death and police investigation. The investigation is led by a police officer named Akbar (Nithin George), and at one point in time, he takes note of Luca and Niharika. The remaining portion of the movie details how Akbar solves the murder case.Interesting plot, but script lags at timesThe film’s plot is very interesting and the director has succeeded in narrating the story without pulling the audiences to a state of boredom. However, the script lags at times, especially in the second half. The climax of the movie is refreshing and the audience will surely leave the theatres with a bit of a smile on their face.The cinematography handled by Nimish Ravi is impeccable. The visuals are breezy and Nimish Ravi deserves applause for this effort. The artwork and music of this movie also deserve a special mention.Tovino Thomas proves his versatility againTovino Thomas, as we all know, is an impeccable performer and has proved his mettle again with his mind-blowing performance in Luca. The actor lives as the artist and the audience will not be able to place any other actor on this particular role. Niharika looks cute and her performance in emotional scenes remind us of Nazriya Nazim.Final verdictLuca may not be a brilliant piece of work but it has those elements which will make the audience glued to the theatre seats. This film is watchable to enjoy Tovino Thomas’ spectacular performance and his on-screen chemistry with Ahaana Krishna.last_img read more


Houston First Tightens Belt To Pay Off Harvey Damage

first_img 00:00 /00:49 Houston First TheatersVentilation machines remove moisture from the Wortham Theater Center, which flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The venue is home to numerous performing arts groups, such as the Houston Ballet.More than a year after Harvey, the corporation that manages Houston’s arts, entertainment, and convention complexes is making steady progress repairing the city’s flooded theater district. But Houston First won’t recover from the economic hit until well into the next decade, according to its latest presentation to Houston City Council’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee.Chief financial officer Frank Wilson said “Harvey will continue to provide [a] fiscal challenge for the next five to seven years,” as the organization completes the repairs and pays down its debts. The organization repaired enough of the Wortham Center to reopen it in time for the 2018-2019 season, but renovations are still underway. In addition, work on downtown parking garages is only about half done.Houston First will finish 2018 with a balanced budget, and it’s projecting another in 2019. But president and CEO Brenda Bazan says getting there was no easy task, as damage estimates from Harvey rose throughout the year.“Today that estimate is $153 million for the facilities that we manage,” Bazan said. “To put that in perspective, the total operating budget for all of our facilities for 2019 is $95 million.” Closing the gap used up almost all of Houston First’s reserves. “We must accept the reality that Houston First’s ability to make significant investments in the foreseeable future has been severely curtailed.”Curtailed, but not shut off. The corporation is still drawing healthy income from hotel occupancy taxes and strong convention bookings. It’s set to spend $37 million for renovations at the Hilton Americas. Share X To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listenlast_img read more