Written by: Mahek Bhardwaj
Local artisans and traditional crafts have always been an integral part of Indian culture. They have played a significant role in Indian history by helping citizens develop a common cultural identity through arts and handicrafts, and unifying them in solidarity against the British Raj. From the Pashmina shawls of Kashmir to the Kanchipuram silk sarees of Tamil Nadu, India has a vibrant handicraft industry.
With the advent of globalisation, India, which was previously regarded as the melting pot of customs and traditions, is gradually losing its cultural essence. These art forms, in addition to being figments of our cultural diversity, are the only source of livelihood for numerous craftsmen communities who be destroyed in the absence of an effort to preservation.
There has been a steady decline in handicrafts sales during recent years. This has led to a decline in production and resulted in fewer people looking to be employed in the industry. This endangers such crafts and art forms since it hinders the transmission of knowledge and skills to the next generation. The preservation of such an important facet of our nation is extremely important.
There are several other issues that the industry faces. With the surge of urbanisation and the availability of cheaper and more varied products, crafts are facing severe competition in contemporary markets. They are typically perceived as traditional, old-fashioned and antithetical to modern tastes. Rural artisans often lack access to high-quality raw materials.
Due to the requirement of lesser volumes of product, artisans have low bargaining power and are forced to buy substandard materials at higher prices. They may also lack the financial capability to upgrade production technology or undergo necessary training on a regular basis, as would be available to them in a formal work setting. This compromises the quality of their products and raises the cost of production.
What can be done to help revive the industry? Can these endangered art forms be preserved? These are the questions that a team of young students, as a part of our school changemakers programme, sought to answer.
Through intensive research and surveys, these aspiring changemakers presented some shocking statistics about the number of people left in some of these artisanal businesses. They conducted hours of research to come up with unique solutions to solve the persisting problems for the betterment of the industry. By using their resources to conduct the survey, they came up with a methodology that utilises the already-existing self-help groups in villages to not only help preserve and promote these art forms, but also help increase employment among local artists and spread awareness among citizens through newsletters, workshops, etc. This methodology consisted of five phases, all efficient and concise, based on reliable facts and evidence.
Perhaps, the most impactful part of the session was how these changemakers connected the roots of our country with Indian culture and came up with a beautiful symbol for their cause: the letter S (the initial of their project, Saksham), beautifully integrated with the various cultures of India. As explained by team member Amrit:
“Tones of orange and yellow were chosen to symbolise goodwill and energy as they fit our theme perfectly. Since our platform covers a variety of cultures, we attempted to incorporate that in our logo. Seven is the number of keys in Indian wind instruments, as highlighted above the arrow-like structure. These arrow-like wings represent the flight of our cause. We have also added three dots at the top and bottom of the curves, which hold a culturally strong meaning in south India. They have been adapted from local folklore. This logo has been designed keeping in mind the spirit of this diverse platform.”
The thoughtfulness and thoroughness behind their project go on to show not only the extent of the hard work and research conducted by these team members, but also the genuinity with which they are connected with the cause. It reminds us that all hope is not lost. The youth of India does care about its colourful history of handicrafts and art forms and will continue to protect and nourish them.