Interesting excerpts from the document prepared by the Asian Heritage Foundation towards the National Mission for Creative and Cultural Industries, submitted to The Planning Commission
The present article focuses on the plight of the Indian artisan in today’s context.
The most important issue we must raise is the state of the skilled person behind these legacy industries.
What are they thinking? How are they relating to the tremendous developments taking place…many of which have a direct impact on them? What are their aspirations for their children and themselves? Working out ways of addressing the concerns of skilled craftspeople is meaningless if their own voices are not articulated.
We bandy them about the world as the repository of our heritage, but never recognize their needs as people, when we bring them back to dump them in inhospitable slums.
Do we know what miserable conditions many of our artisans and artists live and work in today? Do we feel for the gloom they face and indeed, the doom that India will face, if we allow them to disappear? Who has the time today to pause and think-could this man pulling a rickshaw, selling balloons and vegetables, or sifting through garbage to be a man with agile senses and a finely tuned mind?
Nathilal is a displaced weaver from U P selling ice lollies in Delhi. He sings about his hunar- his honorable vocation as a lover- longing in embrace, life is uncertain!! As living repositories of our heritage, our traditional artists are a threatened species. It is against this background that I choose to define the conditions of the numerous craftspeople and performing artists. Numbering in millions, they draw feebly on the minimal resources of our governments. In India, this surviving group constitutes the second largest workforce after agriculture. What happens to them, to us? To the depth or our ancient culture?
We must ask, “Do we leave our country as a better place or do we accept this tag as an also ran, in a race seething with borrowed synthetic aspirations?” Where did it all go wrong? At one micro level let’s take the case of Ramaswami- A master dyer living in a small village, near Salem in Tamil Nadu – amongst the few crafts people who know the process of making natural dye. The colonial invention of Alizarin and substitute for indigo changed the natural scale of our vocabulary and pallette forests forbid him entry to get the raw material he needs and few, including Ramaswami, are aware of the economic value of natural dies or the buzz around it in world markets.
To conclude, let me go back to textiles, may I translate a muhavara
….. It is said that colour is the king, the fabric the subject and the motif the maid:
Let us for a moment, see the colour Neel and Aal, as a metaphor for India’s balanced spirit,
…. the tenacious fabric, as the indomitable skill of its people,
…..the unique design or motif as the unbridled imagination of our culture,
… At another level, making, doing and being become one… ….
There is Creativity in culture, their is future for skilled work and the ethos of our nation is Defined by its eyes, hands and spirits