By Design

Advocacy, Craft, Handloom, Art, ICH-Policy, Mgmt., Devt., Sustainability, Sustainable Devt.

By Design: Sustaining Culture in Local Environments

Edwards, Eiluned

KEYWORDS YOUR VIEWS

Issue #002, Winter, 2019                                                                            ISSN: 2581- 9410

INTRODUCTION

This collection of essays came out of a series of events held in India and the UK(2014-17) that were funded by the British Academy through the International Partnership and Mobility Scheme (award no: PM130270). Its contributors draw on a wide range of professional experience from the craft sector, academia, museums and galleries, the fashion industry, and the development sector. While their occupations are diverse, they are united in their interest in and commitment to design as a factor in sustaining cultural and material heritage. For the majority, their work has focused on the Indian craft sector but other local environments were explored notably the East Midlands in the UK,a region formerly known for its textiles industry where the manufacture of lace, hosiery and knitwear relied on the industrial craft skills of generations of local workers.

THE PROJECT was devised by Eiluned Edwards, Professor of Global Cultures of Textiles and Dress, Nottingham Trent University (NTU), UK in collaboration with Ritu Sethi, Chair, Craft Revival Trust, New Delhi,Jatin Bhatt, Professor, School of Design, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) and Abduljabbar M. Khatri, a9th generation block printer and dyer, and workshop owner, Dhamadka village, Kachchh district, Gujarat.

By Design explored the challenge of sustaining cultural heritage in local environments through the lens of the Indian handicrafts sector and considered the relationship between craft and design. By analysing craft in a range of contexts in India, considering the development strategies and design-led initiatives introduced, the agencies and agents involved, it endavoured to identify different models of practice to discuss with the rising generation of designers, educators, scholars, and activists through a range of events in India and the UK.

THE PROGRAMME of EVENTS launched in 2014 with a Research Methods workshop with MA Social Design students at AUD.  The following year, a research seminar took place at NTU with staff and postgraduates at NTU. In 2016 at NTU, there was an exhibition of contemporary Indian block prints, IMPRINTS OF CULTURE, at the Bonington Gallery; a three day block printing workshop for staff and students led by Abduljabbar M. Khatri, and an international symposium, CULTURE, HERITAGE AND SUSTAINABILITY with a keynote address by Charllotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints, Vancouver BC, Canada. A second international symposium,SUSTAINING CULTURAL HERITAGE IN LOCAL ENVIRONMENTS, was hosted at the India International Centre, New Delhi in 2017 with a keynote address by Prableen Sabhaney, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Fabindia,and an Artisans’ Forum was convened in Jaipur, Rajasthan. At a research partners’ meeting at NTU in March 2017 publication plans and project legacy were discussed.

Apart from the public-facing events held in India and the UK in 2016 and 2017, a programme of research was sustained throughout the course of the project (2014-17). The craft sector of Kachchh district, Gujarat, provided a particular focus but research was also carried out in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and New Delhi with designers and design-led companies, including Archana Shah/Bandhej, Chinar Farruqi/Injiri, Rachel Bracken-Singh/Anokhi and Fabindia. Another strand of the research looked at design institutes and cultural organisations such as museums and included interactions with the School of Design, AUD and the Indian Institute of Craft and Design, Jaipur in the former category and in the latter, the Shrujan Life and Learning Design Centre (LLDC) at Ajrakhpur, Kachchh, the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, Amber, Rajasthan, the National Museum, New Delhi and in the UK, the Victoria and Albert Museum, New Walk Gallery, Leicester, and the John Smedley archive at Lea Mills, Derbyshire.

THE CONTEXT The research underpinning the project was carried out in December 2014, when By Design partners met in Kachchh district, Gujarat. It considered who the stake holders were in the district’s craft sector and explored the ways in which they tackled the issue of cultural sustainability, considering a range of concerns from the environment to market access. Research with craftspeople was conducted at two sites: Zura-Nirona with metal workers (bell casting); at the block printing and dyeing cluster[i] of Dhamadka-Ajrakhpur. Kachchh was chosen for several reasons: in recognition of its importance as a site of craft production – today but also dating back to the late Harappan period of Indus Valley Civilisation (c.2600-1800 BCE); its expansive NGO sector;it made the most of the existing connections between the district’s artisans and NGOs, andEiluned Edwards (who has worked in  Kachchh since the early 1990s) and Jatin Bhatt (who had been a consultant on several craft development projects in Kachchh).

During a ten-day period, interviews were carried out with members of the Lohar, metal-workers’ community at Zura-Nirona, and with Khatri block printers at Ajrakhpur-Dhamadka. Abeer Gupta (formerly AUD), working in collaboration with block printer, Abduljabbar M. Khatri, shot footage capturing the process of ajrakh printing with natural dyes for which the Khatri community is internationally renowned. (The resulting films were first shown at the IMPRINTS of CULTURE exhibition at NTU in 2016). Discussions were also held with colleagues at Khamir, a local NGO, that ‘works to strengthen and promote the rich artisanal traditions of Kachchh district’[ii]. Khamirhas carried out documentation of the region’s crafts, offers design input, language and business training to artisans, and hosts regular exhibitions to promote crafts and boost their sales.The research partners also visited the Shrujan Trust at Bhujodi, which was founded in 1968-69 by the late Chandaben Shroff, and was the first NGO in India to create employment for women through commercial hand embroidery. Inspired by objects embroidered for dowry, the Shrujan team produces fashion, accessories and soft furnishings and the women, who represent twelve local communities and come from one hundred and twenty villages, pride themselves on the quality of the goods they produce.

In the district capital, Bhuj, visits were made to the Kachchh Museum which had been founded in 1877 as part of the Bhuj School of Art by Khengarji III, the Maharao of Kachchch (r.1876-1942), and the Aina Mahal Palace, Bhuj, which was built in about 1750 at the behest of Maharao Lakhpatji (r.1741-60) under the guidance of Ramsingh Malam, a remarkable craftsman from Kathiawar (now Saurashstra).Ramsingh Malam’s contribution to craft development in the district warrants consideration. After spending eighteen years in Europe where he learned tile work, glassblowing, enamelling, clock-making, gun-casting, foundry-work and stone carving, he landed in Kachchh and with royal patronage brought his skills to bear on the Aina Mahal. He trained apprentices in the district where he also established a glass factory, a tile factory and iron foundry, and returned twice to Europe for further instruction, taking students with him each time.[iii]

Working in an area so steeped in craft provided numerous and varied examples of practice, allowing the group to explore how local heritage was managed by different actors and agencies, including the state (Gujarat and India) through the examples of the Kachchh Museum, the annual Rann Utsav craft mela (fair), and the Gujarat State Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation. Private initiatives such as the Aina Mahal Trustwere explored as well as interventions by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Khamir, Shrujan Trust and Qasab all of which work in the craft sector. In tandem with state and other agencies, local heritage was explored through the experiences of craftspeople themselves whose skills and entrepreneurship have sustained practices and traditions through generations. In this respect the participation of Abduljabbar M. Khatri throughout the lifespan of the project was especially valuable, in addition to which his longstanding experience of working with designers allied to his own design work brought unique insights to the project.

 DEFINING HERITAGE There is ongoing debate about how to define ‘heritage’ and alternatives to the term such as ‘cultural resources’[iv] and ‘cultural property’ have been suggested; the latter is problematic because it implies ownership with the attendant association with private ownership and exclusive access to resources[v]. However, a slightly revised term, ‘traditional cultural property’, has gained currency in heritage management practice, where indigenous communities have been contributing to dialogue about heritage because of ‘their status as owners of land and tradition, and their being part of cultural heritage’[vi].

Drawing on Romila Thapar’s work on Indian cultures in which she addresses the different types of heritage, she defines two kinds:

‘One is the natural heritage that came from the physical creation of the earth. This is the heritage we are currently busy depleting because we cannot control our greed for the wealth that comes from destroying natural resources. By linking the environment to history, this heritage is now being seen as essential to the other one.

The other heritage is the one the one that was cultivated and created by human effort. This became what we call ‘cultural heritage’. It includes objects and ideas that determine our pattern of life.’[vii]

Craft dwells at the interface of these two types of heritage. For the craftspeople involved in this project, their cultural property, or ‘intangible cultural heritage’ resides in inherited skills and knowledge, transmitted from one generation to the next through informal or embodied learning. The term they most commonly use to describe this is parampara (Hindi: परंपरा ), which translates as ‘tradition’. But many of them are confronted by an existential threat to their livelihoods borne of environmental degradation and water shortages, in addition to which there are commercial assaults on their cultural property as the reproduction of craft goods by cheaper, faster means is rife.

The rootedness of traditions and skills in a specific region, reflected in local pride[viii]is embedded in legislation to protect the traditional products of India, including crafts. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, first introduced by the Government of India in 1999, was revised and came into force in 2003. Widely known as the ‘G.I. Act’, it is one of six Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) instigated by the World Trade Organisation of which India is a signatory.[ix]Under the conditions of the G.I. Act (2003), however, a craft must be formally registered and individuals are precluded from applying;applications are only accepted from an association of craftspeople working in a specific area. Applying groups are required to provide historical, anthropological and statistical evidence of their craft in a given location, and the form must be completed in English. As many craftspeople read and write only the vernacular and Hindi, the form is usually prepared in collaboration with local NGOs where there is often an English speaker on staff.

The G.I Act 2003 creates a cultural geography of ‘place goods’[x] and is aspirational in its intent of securing their distinctiveness from the threat of illegal reproduction. As Jaya Jaitly, activist and the founder of the NGO,Dastkari Haat Samiti, has commented, ‘With the registration of geographical indications, craftsmen will now have some protection. No-one will be able to sell their products under the same name. G.I. is necessary to keep our cultural heritage intact in the global market’.[xi]It must be noted that since the introduction of the Act, however, no legal action has been pursued by any registered craft association with G.I. status despite numerous instances of trespass on the intellectual property rights of artisans. In the field of textile printing, for example, copying is common, and the reproduction of heritage block prints by means of screen or digital printing, which is a widespread problem for block printers, goes unchallenged.[xii]

SUSTAINING HERITAGE It is interesting to note that the focus of the G.I. Act is to protect trade as a pre-requisite for cultural heritage to flourish. The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage recognizes traditional craftsmanship as one five broad domains in which intangible cultural heritage is manifested does not explicitly link safeguarding culture to commerce in the same way. Rather it states that, ‘Any efforts to safeguard traditional craftsmanship must focus not on preserving craft objects – no matter how beautiful, precious, rare or important they might be – but on creating the conditions that will encourage artisans to continue to produce crafts of all kinds, and to transmit their skills and knowledge to others’.[xiii] But perhaps a vibrant commercial environment is implied under the Convention as one of a number of conditions required to sustain cultural heritage.

Environmental issues are of urgent concern throughout India and impact cultural heritage in numerous ways. In Kachchh, for example, there is a well-established three-year cycle of drought and all residents are accustomed to recurring water shortages.[xiv]For craftspeople such as the Khatris, however, whose businesses rely on a continuous supply of running water, this can be disastrous. Adopting a practice introduced by local farmers in the 1960s, many workshop owners have resorted to sinking a tube well that draws on the natural aquifer.[xv] While solving the immediate problem, longer term this leads to lowering of the water table, saline ingress and increased desertification: a serious threat to natural heritage. As an understanding of the environmental impact of tube wells has grown among the Khatris, the community at Ajrakhpur (part of the Dhamadka-Ajrakhpur block printing cluster)[xvi] has been looking for alternatives; they decided to set up a central effluent treatment plant (CETP) in the village – a design for the future. Liaising with Khamir, the local agency working with the Government of India’s Sustainable Textiles for Sustainable Development (SUSTEX) project, they have trialed a scheme that they hope will be fully implemented in the future. The CETP will collect waste water from all the workshops in the village, filter it and recycle it five times before eventually releasing it for agricultural use. As stake holders in the future, the Khatris continue to seek viable solutions to the challenges confronting their heritage.

THE ESSAYS included in this collection explore how cultural heritage is managed and sustained in a range of contexts primarily in India although some draw our attention to practices in other parts of the world. They investigate business and educational initiatives for sustaining craft and cultural heritage; several address the commercial environment required, and others shed light on the approach taken by cultural institutions such as museums through exhibitions, permanent displays and outreach programmes. We hear about the lived experience of craftspeople and designers as well as scholars and educators and those in the museum world. Each author offers a different perspective but what emerges from their contributions is how essential collaboration is in all the activities described – between individuals,institutions and nations, across borders and time.

The collection opens with an account of the lived experience of two block printers working in rural Gujarat. It is a joint contribution from Abduljabbar M. Khatri (“Jabbar”) and his son, Adam, who are the ninth and tenth generation of a family of ajrakh [xvii] printers from Dhamadka village in Kachchh district.They discuss the evolution of ajrakh printing in Kachchh with which their family has been intimately involved, recalling how it has transitioned in the recent past from a staple of local dress, widely worn by male herdersin Banni, north Kachchh, to a fashionable fabric used for garments and soft furnishings. Jabbar’s father, Mohammad Siddik, was one of the last generation of printers to supply ajrakh to a local market before his customers adopted cheaper polyester fabrics in the 1970s.  At the time Mohammad Siddik made two significant choices: the first, to revive the use of natural dyes, knowledge he believed to be the Khatris’ heritage and which he felt was at risk of dying out; the second was to take a step into the unknown by collaborating with young designers from the National Institute of Design (NID) on the adaptation of ajrakh and other traditional prints for soft furnishings. These new products would be sold in Gurjari, the retail outlet of the newly-founded Gujarat State Handicrafts and Hand looms Development Corporation, in Ahmedabad. Jabbar and Adam’s narrative skewers the point at which family and caste history intersects with postcolonial craft development policy as it was delivered in Gujarat, placing Mohammad Siddik at the vanguard of artisan-designer collaborations – which are now commonplace. This juncture also marks the start of the family’s now forty year working relationship with Archana Shah who recounts her own early experiences in Kachchh in her contribution to this collection.

Archana’s essay evokes the early days of both NID and craft development in Gujarat. It navigates the transition of craft objects such as ajrakh prints from use as rural caste dress to chic furnishings and fashion in a contemporary, urban context, initially in India but latterly around the world. As a member of one of the early cohorts of professional designers to emerge from NID, she captures how the design-craft development nexus started to take shape. The exchange of knowledge and skills between design and craft professionals in those early days relied on trust as much as a financial incentive; nonetheless, revitalising the commercial potential of traditional craft underpinned these collaborations. Her encounter with rural crafts influenced her future career as a design entrepreneur and laid the foundations of her company, Bandhej (Hindi for ‘tie dye’).

Her essay also sheds light onNID as an incubator of design talent which placed an emphasis on the Bauhaus credo of ‘learning by doing’[xviii] and the unique character of the institution’s curriculum. Although influenced by international modernism – the India Report [xix] prepared by American designers, Charles and Ray Eames, defined its underlying spirit – NID asserted the social role of design in uplifting communities and marginalised groups and its staff and students have been part of many initiatives.At the vanguard of design in postcolonial India, Archana has not only contributed to establishing the profession of ‘designer’ but has also established a template for ‘corporate social responsibility’ in the ethos of her company, working consistently to uplift those marginalised by geography, social status, or gender through engagement in craft.

After describing the successful uptake of artisanal textiles by high end fashion, Archana concludes by identifying the need for sales to expand into less elite sectors in order to secure the livelihoods of ‘around thirty million textile artisans.’ Her advocacy of the local use of locally produced textiles echoes Mahatma Gandhi’s promotion of indigenous cloth as a means of securing the self-sufficiency of India’s villages. He envisioned independent India with a craft-based economic structure and his leadership of the swadeshi (‘of the country’) campaign in the early twentieth century saw simple khadi (handloom fabric made from hand spun yarn) become the ‘fabric of independence.’[xx] The significance of handlooms is discussed later in the collection by Ruth Clifford.

Following on from Archana’s overview of craft and its uptake in Indian fashion, Sandy Black locates craft in the global fashion system. She draws attention to the fact that although much of the industry is highly automated and mass-produced, it still relies on individual skilled workers operating manually controlled machinery. Artisanal production of embroidery, handlooms and accessories remains significant in the global south – especially for women’s employment.Highlighting the domination by a few conglomerates of luxury and designer sectors, Sandy identifies growing consumer concern about the nature and sustainability of fashion. In an industry where complex supply chains remain largely invisible there is ample evidence of environmental and ethical abuse. With public calls for transparency and accountability, there has been a reappraisal of craft and the ethics of production among a rising number of businesses.

Identifying the contradictions inherent in the industry, Sandy points to the plurality of fashion which crosses cultures, geographies and time and to the semiotics of dress which expresses social identities, inclusion and exclusion, and the passage of time. As a medium that encompasses the high street, catwalk and gallery, fashion is celebrated in the academic record, and is one of the most important global industries as well. Returning to our focus on South Asia, Sandy goes on to note the importance of garment manufacture which accounts for a good deal of the gross domestic product and export earnings for several countries in the region.This is acknowledged in Archana’s contribution and on a more personal level by Jabbar and Adam whose essay identifies the role fashion has played in securing a future for the craft of block printing in Kachchh.

A bleak picture emerges, however, as Sandy digs into the detailof ‘fast fashion’. The acceleration of the globalization of manufacture, with production and consumption reaching unsustainable levels (especially in the global north) is the result of trading agreements abandoned in the interest of free trade. Media coverage of the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 which came to epitomise the environmental and human costs of ‘fast fashion’, took damning evidence of the loss of life into peoples’ homes around the world.The disaster came to mark a turning point in the industry, setting into action an agenda for change. (Divia Patel’s essay which follows, discusses the V&A’s response to the disaster).

Against this sombre backdrop and acknowledging the scale of action required and its complexity, Sandy gives an overview of the campaigns, companies, designers, educational institutions and multi-stake holder and government initiatives in different regions working towards radical change. Based at London College of Fashion (LCF), a pioneer in fashion sustainability, she delineates both her own contribution to developing new narratives for sustainable fashion and research projects undertaken by PhD students at LCF. Sandy’s work, including publications such as The Sustainable Fashion Handbook,[xxi]maps the trajectory of sustainable fashion from the 1980s to the present. It outlines key themes and lists the designers and companies at the vanguard of change and addresses the role of craft and the place and value of the handmade in contemporary fashion. Her contribution to this collection provides an overview that illuminates the ways in which initiatives in the fashion industry led by individuals, companies and NGOs, are starting to re-shape consumption and to foreground sustainability. Alternatives to fast fashion are on offer that encourage reduced consumption but with enhanced value of goods. These innovations allied to new research on heritage crafts represent a paradigm shift to ‘more mindful consumption practices and ultimately towards a sustainable fashion industry.’

There follows a pair of essays written from the curator’s perspective. The first by Divia Patel, Senior Curator in the Asia department at the V&A, focuses on the V&A’s block buster exhibition of 2015-16, The Fabric of India, and discusses contemporary craft practices as well as the role of the museum. It is followed by an essay from Anamika Pathak, Curator of Decorative Arts and Textiles at the National Museum, New Delhi, in which she explores the contribution of her department to sustaining cultural heritage in India. Between them, these essays illustrate different aspects of a curator’s work in a leading national museum and in the process reveal the ways in which museums not only tackle the challenge of sustaining cultural heritage but also engage the public in the ongoing debate.

In her discussion of The Fabric of India, Divia explains why a thematic-chronological format was chosen for the exhibition. It enabled the curators to tell the story of Indian handmade textiles by placing them at the heart of India’s culture and economy and allowed exploration of their far-reaching global impact. The curators were concerned to fully acknowledge and celebrate the skill and ingenuity of generations of artisans and to demonstrate the continuity of crafts practice. They married objects, images and short films of textile processes shot in workshops across India in order to do so.A selection of contemporary Indian fashion, at the intersection of craft and design, made evident the relevance of craft today. By illuminating the development of a major exhibition, outlining the curators’ aims and how they were fulfilled in the objects, images and films commissioned and displayed, Divia’s contribution demonstrates how the V&A is building a legacy with specific reference to Indian crafts.

From Anamika, we learn more of the day-to-day activities undertaken by the Decorative Arts department at the National Museum, from conservation of objects to organizing temporary and touring exhibitions and undertaking a varied educational programme that notably includes craft workshops, lectures and seminars.In common with the V&A, the National Museum sees itself as a guardian of material and cultural heritage, and its commitment to communicating the importance of sustaining traditional crafts for future generations is enacted through its exhibition, outreach and education programmes.

Apart from their guardianship of material heritage, objects of local, national and global significance, museums play a key role in education and research. The displays and exhibitions they mount form public opinion and raise awareness (note Divia’s description of the V&A’s response to Rana Plaza), inspire visitors, influence taste and markets, encourage trade and provoke debate. Synthesising aesthetics, the transmission of knowledge and expertise, and economics, both the V&A and the National Museum, New Delhi offer a public education programme that includes lectures, conferences, and specialised courses. Education,as we have seen in the earlier essays by Sandy Black and Archana Shah, applied in different ways to sustaining heritage, is crucial. The next essay returns us to artisanal practice in India and considers education for hereditary artisans and explore show the needs of handloom weavers are served.

 Ruth Clifford, a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University, focuses on case studies of two initiatives in India that have introduced design and business education for artisans: Somaiya Kala Vidya (SKV) in Kachchh district, Gujarat, and The Handloom School (THS) in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. Her essay analyses the experiences of handloom weavers at each institution and opens with an outline of the significance of the handloom industry in India. She proposes that the development of the industry has been dogged by the prevailing view of handloom as a symbol of tradition and weavers as being at odds with modern technologies. Furthermore, she points to the division between fine art and industrial or decorative art established during the colonial period and perpetuated, she feels, by the NID, which has resulted in the divide between artisan and designer. It reduces artisans to mere labourers and de-values any traditional or embodied knowledge they possess. The two projects at the heart of her research seek to address these limitations and assert the value of hereditary, artisanal knowledge. They acknowledge, nonetheless, that artisans’ lack of access to formal education (at secondary and tertiary level and especially English medium), limits their access to other types of knowledge, essential for their businesses to flourish. By re-valuing traditional knowledge, developing a curriculum that is shaped by the specific needs of artisans and offers a flexible timetable that allows them to sustain their workshops and family businesses, these projects challenge the perception of both artisans and the nature of design education.

Drawing on interviews and contextual research among handloom weavers studying at SKV and THS, as well as graduates, Ruth’s research reveals how the aims and objectives of each institution are being realised and reviewed and impact the students long-term. Although each institution has a different policy for selecting students and has its own, unique curriculum, her analysis reveals certain common benefits emerging among the graduates. Apart from a new understanding of design which has enhanced established skills and commercial contacts, attending SKV and THS has brought an appreciation of the value of handlooms as well as economic benefits to its graduates and their families. But beyond that, graduating artisans enjoy enhanced ‘cultural capital’ and social mobility and, crucially for women, these ‘gains’ are not confined to men. SKV and THS are helping to change the perception of artisans, to establish their agency as artisan-designers and entrepreneurs, and markets are responding accordingly. As Ruth concludes, the future sustainability of handloom weaving rests on this evolution.

In the final essay, Ritu Sethi, Chair of the Craft Revival Trust, concludes with a cautionary note. Drawing together many of the threads of discussion explored in the collection (and the project as a whole), her contribution focuses on the threats to craft as craftspeople negotiate the modern world. With a purview of craft activity not only in India but in the broader region of South Asia borne of compiling the AsiaINCH encyclopedia as well as serving as an adviser on intangible cultural heritage to the Government of India, Ritu outlines areas of pressing concern. She addresses four linked issues: digital technologies; copying and fakes; regulations and compliance; formal education v. received knowledge.

She observes that in a relatively short space of time, the internet has transformed the lives of craftspeople, bringing benefits in terms of access to clients, markets and each other, accelerating business and the transmission of ideas. But she alerts us to the misuse of digital technologies – their facility for reproducing and transferring patterns and objects with great accuracy and speed poses an existential threat to craft. Copying craft goods whether it be a handloom, an embroidery, or cire perdu metal figures, is widespread, cheap to do and serves a ready market. At present, as a business model the trespass is seemingly unstoppable. While it might be imagined that the law would protect the rights of craftspeople, the legislation – the Geographical Indications Act which was introduced in 2003 (discussed earlier in this Introduction) – has never been enacted despite numerous transgressions. Although 343 craft associations are G.I. registered, craftspeople’s intellectual property rights continue to be ignored yetthey fail to take collective action. Ritu also points to the under-utilisation of G.I. as a branding tool and the G.I. associations failure to act in either respect represents as she neatly states, ‘opportunities lost, rather than competitive advantages gained.’ This laissez faire approach does little to promote the viability of craft production long term.

While applauding the success of leading craftspeople, Ritu spotlights an issue that has been largely ignored so far: the responsibilities of workshop owners towards their employees and the environment. Craft is commonly described as being an ‘unorganized’ or ‘informal’ sector, and many craft businesses are typically small, family-run concerns, employing few, if any workers from outside the family. The regulation of wages and working conditions has received little scrutiny, likewise the environmental impact of craft. Ritu draws attention to some of the legislation that craftspeople-entrepreneurs need to adhere to, and predicts that, ultimately, failure to comply could jeopardise crucial overseas sales. In this respect, the work of the All India Artisans’ and Craft workers’ Welfare Association (AIACA) to establish employment and environmental norms among craftspeople is worth noting.[xxii]However, the scale and diversity of the sector makes it a considerable challenge; although the numbers are uncertain, ‘it is estimated that [there are] about twenty million craftspeople and weavers,’ as Ritu notes.

The last issue she addresses is that of education and knowledge. Echoing points made by Ruth Clifford, Ritu reviews the impact of new educational opportunities for craftspeople. In the hierarchical landscape of formal education,‘received’ or ‘embodied’ knowledge has been under-valued. Thus, hereditary knowledge gained through practice in the workshop has customarily received less credit than text-based learning. Referring to SKV, THS and Kala Raksha Vidyalaya (KRV) in Sumrasar village, Kachchh, she illustrates the ways in which these projects are challenging the old order, replacing it with a more inclusive type of education tailored for the needs of craftspeople. Making a case for parity between different types of learning and knowledge, she cites the examples of Japan, France, Sweden, Korea and China, all countries that have invested in craft training and education.

While Ritu’s essay endorses the efforts made by the Government of India, NGOs, and others, to sustain craft and textile traditions, her closing plea is for vigilance – that India does not let its unique cultural heritage slip away.

Conclusion

The essays in this collection provide insights into a diverse range of initiatives that address the issue of sustainability of cultural heritage. The focus of the collection (and the project overall) on Indian crafts has shown that there is a good deal to celebrate but little room for complacency. While the contributors share their experiences, expertise and enthusiasm, they are realistic in their appraisal of the craft sector, and they make the problems it faces transparent.

Artisan-entrepreneurs, Abduljabbar and Adam Khatri, capture the revival of block printing in Kachchh but reveal the perils facing the craft that include environmental issues, notably water shortages, and the plague of copying heritage prints. Designer, Archana Shah, provides another facet of the same story, capturing the early days of NID, craft development and the craft-fashion nexus. The role of fashion, introduced by Archana, is expanded on by Sandy Black, whose essay places craft in the global fashion system. An expert on sustainable fashion, Sandy writes of the consequences of ‘fast fashion’ and suggests that heritage crafts could be part of a shift to more thoughtful consumption as the fashion industry is forced to mend its ways in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster. In a discussion of the V&A’s The Fabric of India exhibition (2015-16), Divia Patel’s essay consolidates the importance of fashion in post-colonial craft revival. She mentions, however, some of the pitfalls of artisan-designer collaborations – chiefly the relegation of the artisan to a mere labourer – and alludes to the sometimes uncomfortable meeting of new technologies and heritage designs. (An issue of particular concernto Jabbar and Adam Khatri and their fellow block printers). Contemplating the legacy of the exhibition, she includes a statement of the V&A’s commitment to collecting key examples of contemporary textiles and dress from South Asia. Diverting slightly from the focus on craft, the V&A has been active more broadly in sustaining culture, not only through its collecting policy but also through the Culture in Crisis programme which was launched in 2015.[xxiii]The guardianship role of a museum is identified by Anamika Pathak who reveals  the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the National Museum’s work. She outlines how the cycle of the museum’s activities aims to instil an understanding of Indian cultures through its exhibition and education programmes, promoting the importance of sustaining heritage. Education is also identified as a key factor in sustaining heritage crafts in Ruth Clifford’s analysis of two recent initiatives to provide a design and business curriculum for artisans. She points to the personal, economic and social benefits accrued by graduates of SKV and THS; their improved status is reflected in the rising arc of their aspirations and opportunities. This factor is picked up by Ritu Sethi in the concluding essay. While applauding the success of the many craft development schemes introduced since Indian independence in 1947, her tone is cautionary;although much has been achieved, environmental, social and commercial factors all conspire to threaten heritage crafts. (Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to note that ‘culture’ is not expressly mentioned in the UNESCO Millennium Development Goals,or in the more recent Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs).

These essays have addressed the threats to a specific aspect of Indian cultural heritage and have illustrated in detail initiatives to secure its rich variety and longevity. Our hope is that this collection (and the project overall) has engendered an understanding of the greater context, that it is the heritage of humanity under threat– surely a cause of global concern. To conclude with a statement that is buried in the detail of the 17 SDGs: ‘No development can be sustainable without including culture.’[xxiv]

Acknowledgements

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this project; it has been instructive, enriching and enjoyable. We are grateful to those who participated in the field research as well as in the events held in Nottingham, New Delhi and Jaipur; particular thanks to those who have generously contributed essays to this collection. By publishing the collection in AsiaINCH, our intention is to make the discussions that took place (and informed the essays) accessible to as wide an audience as possible, leaving a legacy beyond the end of the project. We would like to close with a note of thanks to the British Academy which funded the project for 3 years (Award # PM130270, 2014-17), and to the School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University and the Craft Revival Trust, New Delhi, which provided venues and valuable support for the events. EE 20.8.19

[i] In India, ‘cluster theory’ has been widely embraced in the craft development sector, and specialist craft communities, originally shaped by caste affiliation, are now described as clusters.  Devised by economist, Alfred Marshall, cluster theory proposes that the creation of specialised industrial areas facilitates economic growth and efficiency. See: Principles of Economics. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan (2013) [1890].

[ii] Khamir was founded in 2005 as a joint initiative of Kachchh Nav Nirman Abhiyan and the Nehru Foundation for Development and was formally registered under the Societies and Trust Acts in the same year. Today, it serves as a platform for the promotion of traditional handicrafts and allied cultural practices, the processes involved in their creation, and the preservation of culture, community and local environments. See: http://www.khamir.org/about/khamir/who (website accessed 8.10.18).

[iii] Goswamy, B.N. and A.Dallapiccola (1983), A Place Apart: Painting in Kutch, 1720-1820.Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras: Oxford University Press, pp.3-4.

[iv]Lipe, W. ‘Value and meaning in cultural resources’ in: Cleere, H. (ed)(1984), Approaches to Archaeological Heritage, 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[v] Carman, J. (2002), Archaeology and Heritage: An Introduction. London and New York: Continuum.

[vi] Schofield, J. ‘Heritage management, theory and practice’ in: Fairclough, G., Rodney Harrison et al (eds)(2008), The Heritage Reader. London and New York: Routledge, p.16.

[vii] Thapar, R. (2018), Indian Cultures as Heritage. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, p.2.

[viii]Khamir, one of the NGOs we interviewed in Kachchh in December 2014, takes its name from the Kachchhiterm meaning ‘intrinsic pride’. See: http://www.khamir.org/about/khamir/who (website accessed 4.6.19).

[ix]According to the G.I. Act (2003), ‘Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country’. (www.ipindia.nic.in. Website accessed 4.6.19)

[x]Kapur, A. (2016)[2019], Made Only in India. Goods with Geographical Indications. New Delhi, London, New York: Routledge, p.xiii.

[xi] Jaya Jaitly quoted by: Thomson, L.M. and S.D. Sharma, ‘Crafted to take on the world’, The Economic Times, 20.7.08.

[xii]The problem is not simply that heritage block prints such as ajrakh are reproduced as screen or digital prints but that the copies are marketed and sold as authentic block prints. These ersatz heritage prints are far cheaper to produce which undermines fair pricing when it comes to the market for block prints, ultimately eroding threatening the survival of the craft.

[xiii] For details of the UNESCO 2003 Convention see: https://ich.unesco.org/en/intangible-heritage-domains (website accessed 24.10.18).

[xiv] Mehta, L. (1996), Kutch, the Sardar Sarovar Project and the Socio-Economic Component in Water Resources Management. London: Overseas Development Institute.

[xv] The so-called ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s saw vast tracts of Indian forest and waste land turned over to the plough, supported by the introduction of artificial irrigation schemes. The industrialisation of agriculture would enable India to become self-sufficient in food grains, ultimately freeing it from reliance on food aid from other countries and asserting its independent nationhood.

[xvi]Cluster theory has been a formative influence in the Indian craft development sector. It was devised by economist, Alfred Marshall, who proposed that the creation of specialised industrial areas would facilitate economic growth and efficiency. See: Principles of Economics. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan (2013) [1890].

[xvii] Ajrakh is a complex resist- and mordant-dyed textile (traditionally cotton) that is printed on both sides of the cloth and adheres to Islamic principles of non-figurative design.Predominantly red (madder or alizarin) and blue (indigo) in colour, it features a centre panel surrounded by several borders that combine geometric and floral patterns.

[xviii] Rane, M. (2017), The Design Journey of Prof. Sudhakar Nadkarni. Mumbai: Mandar Rane, p.37.

[xix] Eames, Charles and Ray (2004)[1958], The India Report. Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design.

[xx] Bean, Susan S. (1989), ‘Gandhi and Khadi, the Fabric of Indian Independence’, in:  Weiner, A. B. and Jane Schneider (eds), Cloth and Human Experience, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 355-376.

[xxi] Black, Sandy (2012), The Sustainable Fashion Handbook.  London and New York: Thames and Hudson.

[xxii] For further information on the All India All India Artisans’ and Craftworkers’ Welfare Association (AIACA), see: aiacaonline.org.

[xxiii]The participants of the Culture in Crisis Conference held on the 14 April 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in collaboration with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University and under the patronage of UNESCO, produced the ‘London Declaration on Culture in Crisis’. In 2018, the Pretoria Declaration on Culture in Crisis was produced by Culture in Crisis International Team (comprised of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Yale’s Global Cultural Heritage Initiatives and the Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin, and the University of Pretoria). Access via:http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/the-v-and-as-culture-in-crisis-programme/

[xxiv] UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (2015). See: https://en.unesco.org/sdgs(accessed 20.8.19).

Footnotes

[1] In India, ‘cluster theory’ has been widely embraced in the craft development sector, and specialist craft communities, originally shaped by caste affiliation, are now described as clusters.  Devised by economist, Alfred Marshall, cluster theory proposes that the creation of specialised industrial areas facilitates economic growth and efficiency. See: Principles of Economics. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan (2013) [1890].

[1] Khamir was founded in 2005 as a joint initiative of Kachchh Nav Nirman Abhiyan and the Nehru Foundation for Development and was formally registered under the Societies and Trust Acts in the same year. Today, it serves as a platform for the promotion of traditional handicrafts and allied cultural practices, the processes involved in their creation, and the preservation of culture, community and local environments. See: http://www.khamir.org/about/khamir/who (website accessed 8.10.18).

[1] Goswamy, B.N. and A.Dallapiccola (1983), A Place Apart: Painting in Kutch, 1720-1820.Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras: Oxford University Press, pp.3-4.

[1]Lipe, W. ‘Value and meaning in cultural resources’ in: Cleere, H. (ed)(1984), Approaches to Archaeological Heritage, 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Carman, J. (2002), Archaeology and Heritage: An Introduction. London and New York: Continuum.

[1] Schofield, J. ‘Heritage management, theory and practice’ in: Fairclough, G., Rodney Harrison et al (eds)(2008), The Heritage Reader. London and New York: Routledge, p.16.

[1] Thapar, R. (2018), Indian Cultures as Heritage. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, p.2.

[1]Khamir, one of the NGOs we interviewed in Kachchh in December 2014, takes its name from the Kachchhiterm meaning ‘intrinsic pride’. See: http://www.khamir.org/about/khamir/who (website accessed 4.6.19).

[1]According to the G.I. Act (2003), ‘Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country’. (www.ipindia.nic.in. Website accessed 4.6.19)

[1]Kapur, A. (2016)[2019], Made Only in India. Goods with Geographical Indications. New Delhi, London, New York: Routledge, p.xiii.

[1] Jaya Jaitly quoted by: Thomson, L.M. and S.D. Sharma, ‘Crafted to take on the world’, The Economic Times, 20.7.08.

[1]The problem is not simply that heritage block prints such as ajrakh are reproduced as screen or digital prints but that the copies are marketed and sold as authentic block prints. These ersatz heritage prints are far cheaper to produce which undermines fair pricing when it comes to the market for block prints, ultimately eroding threatening the survival of the craft. 

[1] For details of the UNESCO 2003 Convention see: https://ich.unesco.org/en/intangible-heritage-domains (website accessed 24.10.18).

[1] Mehta, L. (1996), Kutch, the Sardar Sarovar Project and the Socio-Economic Component in Water Resources Management. London: Overseas Development Institute.

[1] The so-called ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s saw vast tracts of Indian forest and waste land turned over to the plough, supported by the introduction of artificial irrigation schemes. The industrialisation of agriculture would enable India to become self-sufficient in food grains, ultimately freeing it from reliance on food aid from other countries and asserting its independent nationhood.

[1]Cluster theory has been a formative influence in the Indian craft development sector. It was devised by economist, Alfred Marshall, who proposed that the creation of specialised industrial areas would facilitate economic growth and efficiency. See: Principles of Economics. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan (2013) [1890].

[1]Ajrakh is a complex resist- and mordant-dyed textile (traditionally cotton) that is printed on both sides of the cloth and adheres to Islamic principles of non-figurative design.Predominantly red (madder or alizarin) and blue (indigo) in colour, it features a centre panel surrounded by several borders that combine geometric and floral patterns.

[1] Rane, M. (2017), The Design Journey of Prof. Sudhakar Nadkarni. Mumbai: Mandar Rane, p.37.

[1] Eames, Charles and Ray (2004)[1958], The India Report. Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design.

[1] Bean, Susan S. (1989), ‘Gandhi and Khadi, the Fabric of Indian Independence’, in:  Weiner, A. B. and Jane Schneider (eds), Cloth and Human Experience, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 355-376.

[1] Black, Sandy (2012), The Sustainable Fashion Handbook.  London and New York: Thames and Hudson.

[1] For further information on the All India All India Artisans’ and Craftworkers’ Welfare Association (AIACA), see: aiacaonline.org.

[1]The participants of the Culture in Crisis Conference held on the 14 April 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in collaboration with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University and under the patronage of UNESCO, produced the ‘London Declaration on Culture in Crisis’. In 2018, the Pretoria Declaration on Culture in Crisis was produced by Culture in Crisis International Team (comprised of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Yale’s Global Cultural Heritage Initiatives and the Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin, and the University of Pretoria). Access via:http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/the-v-and-as-culture-in-crisis-programme/

[1] UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (2015). See: https://en.unesco.org/sdgs(accessed 20.8.19).

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