Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski had said, and rightly so: “The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”.
India is a country whose crafts are rich in history and culture. Crafts have been embedded as a culture and tradition within various communities, over centuries. Wherever we go, we are part of a crowd that houses thousands of craftsmen and women and artists, and yet we do not know them because they do not have a platform that can help bring their work of art to the fore.
As per reports, the global market for crafts is USD 400 billion, of which India’s share is below 2 per cent. There are approximately 7 million artisans in India engaged in the production of craft for their livelihood and therefore the global crafts market presents a golden opportunity for Indian craftsmen.
In this scenario, British Council has launched a unique initiative of Crafting Futures that aims to bring together people working in crafts space of two distinct and culturally rich countries – India and UK. The Crafting Futures is aligned to the Indian government’s agenda of supporting local artisans and giving them global exposure, along with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of education and training to develop skills, entrepreneurship and improve the creative quality of crafts. Through this three-year programme, British Council attempts to build capacity, improve economic opportunity and livelihood of Indian craftspeople – especially women – through digital technology, thereby supporting craft that was established ages ago and has lineage of its own.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society.
To get an insight into British Council’s initiative, The Logical Indian spoke to Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts, British Council India.
A Platform For Artisans And Crafts-People To Sustain
“Art and craft are intrinsic to the world’s understanding of India, as a form of individual and community expression art and craft bind us together. Craft represents unique cultures of different communities and speaks volumes about the rich and diverse heritage of India. It is both a key economic factor as well as a crucial cultural indicator,” Kennedy says.
“India has always been known for its rich cultural heritage and art and craft continues to be a significant part of its popularity. Besides being a cultural indicator, the sector also offers a huge economic opportunity to the craftspersons,” he adds.
British Council’s Crafting Futures programme aims to provide Indian artisans and craftspeople a platform to sustain, thrive and take their art to the world. More often than not, their talent remains hidden due to lack of platforms to promote them.
British Council’s Crafting Futures programme is open to art and craft organisations of all sizes across India. Indian organisations across textiles, jewellery, sustainable fashion, handicrafts, furniture, pottery and more craft areas are encouraged to collaborate with UK counterparts and submit joint proposals. Six winning organisations will be chosen and will benefit from monetary and technical support, while getting access to potential partners in the UK to collaborate and exchange ideas with, resulting in substantial cultural, social and economic impact in India.
Kennedy says, “The three-year programme aims to build capacity, improve economic opportunity and livelihood of Indian craftspeople – especially women – through digital technology. One of the four key collaboration themes of Crafting Futures is ‘supporting women’. The programme invites projects that support the economic empowerment of women in crafting communities with reference to inclusive practice and potentials which stem from cooperatives, social enterprise models and creative crafts studios.”
“According to a report published by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), 35 Indian crafts are facing the risk of dying out and that translates into direct or indirect impact on the large contingent of women artisans in India. Crafting Futures aims to positively impact the future of art and craft in India and probably even play a role in the longevity of popular Indian arts,” he adds.
According to Kennedy, Indian craftspeople, including women artisans, are faced with various challenges that prevent them from scaling up and taking their craft to a larger global audience. Some of these challenges include outdated production methods, capital shortfall, lack of information on contemporary design and education and lack of market opportunity. Crafting Futures aims to address some of these challenges by providing monetary and technical support, India-UK industry linkages and mentoring by UK design experts. The premise of the Crafting Futures programme is to connect Indian craft organisations with UK counterparts to open-up greater knowledge-sharing avenues and access to global markets.
Talking about the condition of craftsmen and women in India, Kennedy says, “This Indian craft sector is fragmented, with over seven million regional artisans and more than 67,000 exporters/export houses promoting regional art and craftsmanship in the domestic and global markets. Despite the scale, India’s share is below 2 per cent in the estimated USD 400-billion global crafts market.”
“Online retailing and projects to support such talent are showing a positive shift. As per the ASSOCHAM Economic Research Bureau (AERB), India’s handicrafts exports are growing at a CAGR of 5.3%, further expected to cross Rs 24,000 crore mark by FY 2020-21. We believe that programmes such as Crafting Futures will catalyse the process and enable Indian artisans to grow their share of the pie in the global marketplace,” he adds.
The Logical Indian appreciates British Council and Jonathan Kennedy for their effort to make unnoticed art and craft reach the global audience.