Five years ago the women artists represented in The Katha Collection, shown recently at The Artists’ Center, Mumbai, began an extraordinary journey of personal expression.
The journey is a manifestation of Kala Raksha’s ongoing story of comprehending the difference between artist and artisan and encouraging the creative capacity of the artist. Situated in Kutch, Kala Raksha is a grassroots social enterprise, involved in community development among 600 women from seven distinct ethnic groups. Kala Raksha’s goal is viewing traditional art as art. We strive to value the aesthetic, conceptual and expressive aspects of traditional art in addition to its materials and labor. Developing a narrative style is one path to this goal. Kala Raksha has also launched a design school, Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya, whose curriculum is based on artisans’ own understanding of their art, and in which artisans are encouraged to develop their traditions holistically.
By listening to the pilgrims on the narrative trail, we have already had the remarkable opportunity to examine issues critical to art, including style and aesthetics, means of critique, definition of design, artistry and methods of valuation.
Style, Aesthetics and Critique
Traditionally, embroidery and patchwork artisans of Kutch worked in highly decorative prescribed styles. Personal expression was unknown. The concept of using these art forms for personal expression was introduced when artisans were asked to relate their experience of the earthquake of 2001 for the exhibition,
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