Chitpur (also spelled Chitpore) Road is a neighborhood in north Kolkata. It is one of the most culturally important areas in Kolkata, due to its role in the Bengal Renaissance. As the one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Chitpur Road contains many old buildings and industries. One of the most historically important industries, which still exists on Chitpur Road today, is the printing industry.
Our interest in the print industry on Chitpur Road arises from its proximity to the Oriental Seminary, the proposed site for our community art workshop. We were introduced to the printing presses on the street by an eminent Bengali artist, Aditya Basak, who grew up in the area and continues to create work inspired by the neighborhood and its cultural activities.
However, Chitpur Road's printing industry has changed, as new technologies have replaced the traditional methods of manual printing. Though many lithography, woodcut and letterpress presses continue to be active, there are far fewer than in decades past, and the kind of work they produce has changed in type and scale. Yet printing remains an important part of the sociocultural world of Chitpur.
While visiting and doing research on Chitpur Road's working print presses, we became interested in the people who comprise the printing industry. Many of the print shop owners come from old Bengali families, and grew up in the neighborhood around the Oriental Seminary. Others have knowledge of old printing technologies that have been passed through co-workers and family members. The print industry continues to function because of their vast resources of knowledge and skill.
In our upcoming workshop, we hope to bring knowledge of some of these industries to the students of the local K-12 school. Talking about culture with the students, we hope, will help them to think about how heritage spaces, communities, and local economies can impact the future of a neighborhood. The printing industry is currently an important part of Chitpur, and hopefully will continue to be for many years to come.
Check back for more updates on cultural production in North Kolkata!