Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Through Kala Raksha we explore the dynamic relationship between fashion and tradition, and examine how mutual influence shaped and reflected changing identity among traditional embroidery artisans of Kutch, India. In India, ethnic affiliation has predominated over individuality. Traditional embroidery eloquently expressed this cultural identity. Styles evolved, but visual expression of group affiliation remained clear. Commercialization of embroidery indirectly influenced the development of fashion. Women had less time for hand work, but now had purchasing power. Fashion in turn impacted embroidery. Commercialization eroded the artisans' aesthetics. Cultural identity was devalued and traditions were diluted. Kala Raksha used cultural heritage as a key resource. This valuation of traditional styles activated creativity and revived pride in cultural identity. For a decade, Kala Raksha successfully promoted contemporary crafts with cultural integrity. In the New Millennium, fashion and increased choice encouraged the concept of the individual. Kala Raksha began to think away from the industrial model, and to consider intellectual property. The Trust returned to maintaining and valuing cultural identity realizing that the artist is the steward of tradition. In 2005, the Trust founded Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya, the first design school for artisans, as a sustainable solution for the survival of traditions, and in 2010, it launched Artisan Design, a trademark to certify that a product is an artisan's own creative innovation. The cultural evolution of a stronger individual identity created a space for the concept of intellectual property. Artisan Design accesses intellectual property for development and greater value.