This time for Odisha: How the state should build its cultural capital in 2023

Culture poverty is more ruinous than economic poverty. Wish 2023 will accelerate ‘Make in Odisha’ but culturally too

By Charudutta Panigrahi
Published: Sunday 29 January 2023
This time for Odisha: How the state should build its cultural capital in 2023
Photo from iStock for representation Photo from iStock for representation

This is the final of a two-part series. Read the first part 

Art and culture are Odisha’s permanent treasure. Their fast depletion is making us poorer every year. In 2023, culture-based explanations for economic development will have to make an imminent comeback in Odisha. Cultural activism and concomitant creativity in the general population can make us richer in 2023.

Gross Domestic product (GDP) is grossly incomplete without arts and culture. GDP is outdated. Economists are increasingly turning to culture to answer questions about people’s financial behaviours and what shapes them.

Culture is the foundational power of a state or a race. We continue to invest more in physical capital, finance or in technology and the economy has grown. But this doesn’t explain the variety of growth across the districts.

To know the diversity of growth, we need to go into deeper causes which relate to how a district or a village has developed — or not. The youth are exposed to low grade entertainment which is blatantly salacious and misogynistic. This rules public behaviour. The youths are eons away from the culture and heritage of Odisha.

Investment in the arts will help in wider economic growth because a lot of it is experimental — identical to research and development in science. Hence, public arts funding / promotion is very important economically as well as culturally.

With a progressive and groundbreaking National Education Policy 2020, what we do in schools and higher education institutions will have a knock-on impact on both arts and creative industries. There are hardly any artistes or culture practitioners in the Board of Management, Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar.

Administrators can administer but who will create? So, there is no research work. Without research, culture will be stagnant and wistful.

That is the present situation in Odisha. Culture has stopped its fluidity, centuries ago. Every discourse is a reminder of the past and only the past. Why should the present generation be drawn to culture?

Where is the throbbing life in culture, which should be present in our language, our conduct, our family fabrics, our film dialogues? Culture should permeate to every sphere, every moment of day-to-day life.

Many arts organisations need to diversify their portfolios, to be more commercial and more enterprising. Hordes of business schools, engineering colleges, technical institutes rarely encourage the students to do internships within the state with the creative sector.

The students can help the arts organisations collaborate with companies on the more commercial side, add value to offer core culture organisations a blueprint towards greater sustainability. Working with digital companies, for example, can open a lot of avenues for these organisations. For instance, they can advertise differently to reach a target audience.

Odia society needs anchoring. In these tumultuous times, when the pace of change has overwhelmed all of us, art has the strength of bringing us back to our senses and anchor us.

It’s about how much we experience art or are opportune to experience which makes the difference towards fostering an aesthetic, creative and ‘refined’ civilisation.

To do list

Here is what Odisha should do.

Start asking questions in 2023. Are public institutions like the University of Culture or the Odissi Research Centre accountable for their performance or not? Can we have a performance report for public knowledge because the public is funding these institutions?

The state should mandate the extraction industry (because they are resource-plenty and need to value Odisha’s creative acumen) to support the making of a “Creative Industries Mapping Document”. The aims would be to raise awareness of the industries, the contribution they made to the economy and the issues they face.

It should be made involuntary for industry to promote local art, culture and artistes. This should be driven by the district collectorate. Civil society organisations like FIDR, Utsha Foundation and others can work with industry in collating, curating art forms, prioritise them and plan their development.

Civil society should imbibe the message: you need to study the art of science and the science of art; you need both if you’re going to be successful.

Like One District One Product, Odisha in 2023 should start One District One Creative Centre. Senior artistes of the state should be given responsibilities of mentoring young artistes. Officers should not meddle as this is not a generalist’s job.

Art events, discussions, consultations should be managed and chaired by artistes and not administrators.

Artwork should to be created and promoted in districts and regions. The Kalinga Art Gallery and five Regional Art Galleries is a commendable drive by the State and Lalit Kala Akademi.

But this should not be limited to only initiatives by the government. Local citizens should be actively and formally involved as art committees and task force in their areas. The five Regional Art Galleries are located in Chhatrapur (Ganjam), Puri, Balasore, Sambalpur and Koraput.

Odisha, the repository of unparalleled heritage, should also be made the capital of soft power in the country. It needs conscious effort from all including you and I.

A public library offers information and educational resources to a community. There are other modes in seeking information, but the public library should not be disregarded and be ignored of its existence.

Because it is not only a library but a community centre which imbibes a sense of discipline and belongingness. We need to think about large scale digitisation of libraries to suit the changing and contemporary requirements.

Richness does not mean only economic growth. That is a by-product. GDP is passe, outmoded. Economic growth merely means the size of the state’s economy and doesn’t reflect the state’s welfare.

The real evolution shows in culture and its internalisation. If that does not advance, I continue to be miserably poor, trillions or no trillions in the economy.

Culture poverty is more ruinous than economic poverty. Wish 2023 will accelerate Make in Odisha but culturally too.

Read more: 

Charudutta Panigrahi is a policy advisor in sectoral reforms, the Chairman of FIDR, writer and political observer

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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