Issue #006, Autumn, 2020 ISSN: 2581- 9410
Tejuben Rabari embroidering, 2009
Who are artisans?
Photo Credit: Judy Frater
Indian artisans are reeling from COVID-19 and its economic repercussions. Many organizations have emerged, concerned that craft faces an existential crisis. Notably, few artisans are members of these groups. In overwhelming discussions members suggested making masks, and later initiated marketing campaigns. Recently a weaver was promoted as descending from a lineage of weavers, and today weaving a particular fiber. The campaign did not mention his design education, nor his unique designs or his artistry. The message was that he needed help, and it once again brought up fundamental questions: who are artisans? and who are craft consumers?
The Indian government has a Ministry of Textiles, and many schemes to uplift artisans. Amply funded, the schemes aim to upgrade skills to international standards. Firmly in the industrial age, India is focused on manufacturing. Meanwhile many NGOs and advocacy groups are concerned that traditional artisans are steadily leaving craft as a livelihood.
The mismatch between schemes and results arises from perception. The concept and l...