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Woman reaches out to underprivileged with traditional Indian art

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Taylor Barnes

(Read caption) Sculptor Rupali Madan (l.) aims to revive traditional Indian art by teaching it to disadvantaged women.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

On a drenched monsoon Saturday, Rupali Madan sloshes to a Muslim girls’ orphanage to teach pottery. The girls sit in a small circle to roll palm-sized Ganeshas, the chubby Hindu elephant god popular here.

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For the commercially successful sculptor who grew up as an orphan herself, this is a one-woman effort to keep traditional Indian art alive by putting it in the hands of India’s least privileged.

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“Why are people only [buying] contemporary and modern [art]?” she asks, noting that traditional Indian styles are losing popularity with local art buyers.

She teaches blind women in Mumbai (Bombay) to sculpt, and leads pottery classes for children with learning disabilities. She has taken her clay to a women’s prison, and shows slum-dwelling mothers how to make traditional Indian woodblock-printed fabric.