Kala Raksha: From Cultural Identity to Intellectual Property
Through Kala Raksha we explore the dynamic relationship between fashion and tradition, and examine how working for the global fashion market was turned from a threat to cultural identity to an opportunity for developing a concept of intellectual property.
In traditional South Asian society, identity is visually articulated. Dress unequivocally expresses ethnic affiliation. Identity is hierarchical; a person first belongs to a region, then an ethnic community, a family, and finally is an individual.
In Kutch, embroidery has played a major role in women's lives. Many ethnic communities have embroidered for centuries. This traditional art was never assigned commercial value. However, it was recognized as a cultural asset. Traditional embroidery was created for social exchange, as contribution to dowry, gifts to children, family, the fiancé, and in-laws. Often, embroidery was received before the bride was met, so it introduced her, demonstrating her creativity, intelligence, and love. Above all, embroidery proclaimed identity.
Embroidery styles eloquently expressed the hierarchy of cultural identity. Far more than technique, traditions were design languages comprising stitches, colors, motifs, patterns, and composition. Each style articulated the culture of the wearer, and each was understood as cultural property. Yet, each piece was unique. The concept of rote repetition was completely alien. Innovation was essential to embroidery, and it breath...
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