BinodBamboo and Cane Worker

City celebrations,
behind the scenes

Over 3000 artists in Kolkata have been earning their livelihood working with bamboo and cane—said to be the most commonly used materials in West Bengal. One of these artists is Binod Pakray—a renowned, third-generation, bamboo craftsman—who works at Dom Para off Beadon Street. From decorating wedding venues and puja pandals to making the background structures of deities along with home decorations and gift items, his artisanry is deft and diverse.

We video chatted with Binod da as his daughter held up the phone for him. Patiently, he showed us his process of weaving together thin shafts of bamboo to make a decorative fish, using only a pair of scissors and a knife as tools. Praising the material, he said, “You see this material? It has huge potential as it is eco-friendly, presentable, relatively cheap, abundantly available and lightweight.”

We were intrigued by the occasional chimes of his daughter who acted as translator, interpreter and camera-person, all rolled into one. Would she be the fourth generation craftsperson in his house? Speaking about the transfer of knowledge, Binod da said, “I have to bribe her with books and toys so she spends time under my wings to learn the family craft. If you look on Youtube, you will find my hands weaving a basket. I don’t know how the video got there. It doesn’t have my name on it, but it's me. Customers come and take videos of me and they end up cropped, faceless on the internet to tell the story of the craft, never the craftsperson. Ironically, my daughter uses it to learn the process too.”

Binod da enjoys conducting workshops in schools and also works with contemporary artists across town to realise large scale exhibition venues. He is available to teach you throughout the year, except the months prior to Durga Puja, for that is the time Binod da dedicates to exploring his craft and its technical nuances, all while preparing for the arrival of Goddess Durga and her ensemble.


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