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Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya’s First Annual Convocation Mela

Craftspersons/ Artisanal, Education/Learning, Sustainability, Sustainable Devt.

Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya’s First Annual Convocation Mela

Frater, Judy

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At a Symposium on Indian Textile Traditions at the Artisan students, staff and jury members began the first annual Convocation Mela of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya with great anticipation. From 21-26 November 2006, the graduating class of 2005-06 proudly presented their collections for spring-summer 2007 on the beautiful rural Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya campus in Tunda Vandh, Mundra Ta, Kutch. The first ever professional collections completely designed, produced and presented by traditional artisans of Kutch included home furnishings, accessories and garments in themes of nature and culture. The students also included documentation of their courses on colour, concept, market trends, finishing and presentation.

From 21-23 November, the collections were juried by eminent experts in art and craft, including Ashoke Chatterjee, Gulshan Nanda, Jaya Jaitly, Laila Tyabji, Subrata Bhowmick, Darshan Shah, Debbie Thiagarajan, and Sheela Lunkad who gave valuable, lively and professional feedback to the graduating students.

On the 23rd evening, the four day public mela was inaugurated by the Convocation ceremony, presided by Maharao Shree Pragalmalji and Maharaniji Priti Devi of Kutch and coordinated by Compere Chandrapal Bhanani. Honoured guests were greeted by members of the Kala Raksha family. Director Judy Frater, Advisor Dr. Ismail Khatri, and Jury Members Subrata Bhowmick, Laila Tyabji, and Ashoke Chatterjee spoke about the confluence of craft, design, market and education that is needed for artisans to succeed today. The Maharani and jury members presented graduation certificates and colour wheels donated by The Color Wheel Company to each of the twenty-five students. Prizes were awarded for Best Collection, Best Presentation, Most Marketable and Most Improved. Maharao Shri Pragmalji gave the keynote address in Kutchi language, much to the artisans’ delight. The evening concluded with dinner, followed by the premier of “The Kala Raksha Story: Nurturing the Art of Craft”, a short documentary by Parthiv Shah, and a concert of traditional Kutchi music.

On the 24th evening, the students’ final collections were showcased in an elegant and glamorous fashion show choreographed by Utsav Dholakia. Triumphant artisans walked the ramp alongside lovely models.

The local people were thrilled with the events, never before seen in this region. The 25th evening local groups presented their music and dance. From the veiled welcome song to the ebullient “sanedo” of students and friends, this was a richly varied cultural program, and a fitting grand finale.

All evenings were attended to standing room only. In the three days of celebration, over 6,000 people visited the campus. Days saw visitors trying their hands at block printing, pottery and embroidery, with guidance from artisans in the KRV studios. They enjoyed spontaneous concerts of folk songs, and Kutchi food, and took trips in camel and decorated bullock carts to the neighbouring Rabari village, Vandh. But most of all they appreciated the exciting new craft designs. The students earned over Rs. 1,00,000 in direct sales – unprecedented in a rural Kutch event. Orders were placed for about the same amount, giving encouragement to the new designers.

Sadly, the celebration was marred by the fact that the lush campus, its dormitories, studios and exhibition hall all painstakingly constructed in traditional building techniques – as well at the world famous Rabari village, Tunda Vandh, are slated to be the site of two large power plants.

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