The Future Is Handmade

Advocacy, Op-Ed, Sustainability, Sustainable Devt.

The Future Is Handmade

Chatterjee, Ashoke

The title of this paper is taken from a slogan which emanated a few years ago from the European Union. Surprising as this may seen, it reflects a growing awareness in the West of the centrality of handcraft to creativity and innovation within contemporary society. These capacities are indispensable to the future of all successful economies. Superior technology alone cannot bring success in today’s global market unless technology is enhanced by the sensitive hand, eye and mind. Yet such a culture of creativity is not just about the market. It is also about the most urgent issues of ‘development’, now being increasingly understood as human well-being through justice for all and concern for our planet. Much earlier, a similar awareness gave hand production a central position in the Freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. It later encouraged bold experiments in craft development as part of national planning once India was free. A range of institutions and approaches emerged, intended to empower artisans and to secure a lasting position for craft in India’s economy and ethos. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s paper in this Volume,  as well as those of other pioneers and scholars, reflects these efforts as well as the achievements which took Indian craft across the country and the globe, demonstrating the ability of Indian tradition to evolve and change with new times and new challenges. A craft renaissance was achieved over many hurdles and India’s craft leadership became unquestioned. Yet in more recent times there has been a distinct retreat in understanding and support for this huge sector that represents the second largest source of Indian livelihood. Competing notions have emerged about what should represent modernity and progress. Suddenly, the artisan and her culture and skills are interpreted as representing a primitive past that is out of step with current ambitions of global power and influence. These attitudes were revealed in the term ‘sunset industry...


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