Manjula Devi Maithil Bahun
Medium of Work:
“Empowerment through tradition” is an appropriate slogan for the Janakpur Women’s Development Center (JWDC) in Southern Nepal. For years, the foundation has preserved the tradition of creating ancient Maithil paintings, using methods passed down from woman to woman for generations. Since its inception, the JWDC has grown and flourished and has made Janakpur famous for its colorful paintings on paper.
In 1991, a grant by the Ellen Lyman Cabot trust was given to create a way to preserve this traditional art form and led the idea to transform such images onto lokta paper that has the same rough texture of mud walls and floors, which were traditionally used for painting. The JWDC created both the form and the medium what is now known as “Janakpur Painting” or “Mithila Art,” which often depict scenes of nature and Hindu rituals and deities.
When the center was first founded, women traveled from their villages to the center of Janakpur to learn and develop their skills in composition, color, and line. Over the years, the center has provided training in literacy, management, planning, and gender awareness. It has also been successful in preserving their traditional arts, generating steady income, creating strong female leaders, promoting education, and self-confidence. The center started with seven members and currently supports over forty-one female village artists. They’ve earned a reputation as some of the finest contemporary artists in Nepal, and with a program as richly varied as Janakpur’s, it’s easy to see why.