Innovation and Craft Revival: Empowerment and Sustainable Livelihoods

Innovation and Craft Revival: Empowerment and Sustainable Livelihoods

Arwah Madan (Savitribai Phule Pune University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0504-4.ch017
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Protecting and preserving the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts is a growing challenge. Further, ensuring a sustainable livelihood to artisans working in these traditional crafts is a tall order. Section one of the chapter explores the traditional tribal art form widely practised among a semi-nomadic tribe in the north-west region of India. Section two of the chapter examines the role of a not-for-profit organization involved in the revival of the ancient Lambani craft. Sabala- an organization located in one of the districts in Southern India has been working on the revival and preservation of Lambani embroidery. At Sabala, crafts are designed to enhance the creative appeal of products for the local and global market, as well. The integration of both, the creative design and the execution of craft in the hands of the artisans can ensure ingenuity in the craft form and not reduce the craft worker to a mere labourer.
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Brief History Of Indian Handicrafts

The history of Indian crafts dates back almost 5000 years. Archaeologists have found Indian crafts in the remnants of Indus Valley Civilization (3000 B.C.-1700 B.C.). Beginning its journey in ancient times, the craft tradition in India has witnessed a sustained evolution. Historically, Indian handicrafts were basically made for day-to-day use. Indian crafts have been highly acclaimed throughout the world for their aesthetic appeal and magnificence and became an important commodity for world trade. The Mughal era witnessed the patronage of brilliant artisans and craftsmen endowed with excellent skills and, as a result, Mughal carpets, ivory bone horns carvings and papier-mâché were regularly exported from India to other countries. Skilled artisans were invited from all over the globe, and, with them, came the native art forms that touched upon and left a mark of their own on Indian craft forms. The disintegration of the Mughal Empire led to the rapid decline of the craft industry; with the coming of the British East India Company and its engagement in trade relations with India, the Indian markets were flooded with machine made products. It was difficult to compete with the finesse and the quality of the machine made products. Gradually, the Indian crafts started losing their charm and were discontinued. Much later, during the days of the freedom struggle, the Gandhian philosophy of self-sufficiency and the Swadeshi movement once again led to the revival of Indian crafts.

Each state of India has its own tradition and legacy of handicrafts. As one moves from the north to south and east to the west, one witnesses the varied craft-forms ranging from pottery, metal craft, woodcraft, stone works, gems and jewelry, textiles, leatherwork to mesmerizing paintings, sculptures and statues. India has perfected almost all the arts and crafts forms known to humanity. To mention a few, there is the fragile beauty of the Phulkari art of North India or the dizzying artistry of the silver filigree work famous in eastern India; the colossal impact of stone craft of South India and the artistry of bidriware from western India- all demonstrate the elegance and brilliance of Indian art and craft.

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