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Kala Raksha and Kala Raksha Vidyalaya

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Kala Raksha and Kala Raksha Vidyalaya

Chatterjee, Ashoke

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Kala Raksha has emerged as an important force and influence in the effort to preserve and sustain India’s craft heritage, as well as for understanding its contemporary relevance. Mahatma Gandhi and those who struggled with him for independence recognized the central role of handcraft to India’s civilization, values and aspirations. In the complex transition from a colonial economy to industrialization and development that followed freedom in 1947, India became the first country to integrate craft into national planning. Although much has been achieved since then, the craft sector is in crisis. Globalization, the pressures of consumerism, changing lifestyles and conflicting notions of modernity have all combined to make this a critical moment for the sector. The need is to demonstrate the relevance of craft to sustainable livelihoods for millions of Indians, and as a means for empowering those who remain at the margins of society and of what many consider ‘progress’. Kala Raksha has demonstrated the relevance of craft as an important opportunity for sustainable rural livelihoods in one of India’s harshest environments, as well as the relevance of crafts to wider issues of empowering women and the marginalized. Kala Raksha and the Kala Raksha Vidyalaya have together helped to bridge the gap between the traditional knowledge held by rural communities and the demands and opportunities of new and changing markets, demonstrating that these links are possible without damage to the integrity of cherished values. In addition, and perhaps most significantly, Kala Raksha has worked to remind us all that crafts have an importance beyond incomes as a force for identity and self-worth in an era of such rapid change. The Kala Raksha Vidyalaya is perhaps the first effort of its kind, bringing contemporary design education to those for whom access is most often denied because of poverty, illiteracy and gender. This in itself is a huge, revolutionary achievement which can have a ripple effect of enormous significance to India and the world.

 

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