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New Meanings for Craft and Craft Development Organizations in India

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New Meanings for Craft and Craft Development Organizations in India

Jongeward, Carolyn

KEYWORDS YOUR VIEWS
A recent headline in Canada's national newspaper reads: "Artisans drowning in global monoculture" (Globe and Mail, October 31, p. C16). The article focuses on the impact of Western commercial products, open markets and mass media on the decline of artisan activity worldwide. This is not news to India's artisans who are struggling for survival or who have moved away from traditional occupations. However, the loss of artisan livelihoods has become a global as well as a local issue. This is not only an economic problem. The loss of knowledge and ways of life that are part of an artisan's work and environment is eroding cultural diversity. Urmul Marusthali Bunkar Vikas Samiti (UMBVS) is one among many craft development organizations in India that are confronting the enormous challenges of establishing sustainable employment within viable craft communities. In a relatively short period of time, UMBVS has improved the social and economic status of hand weavers in Rajasthan and has contributed to the survival of traditional pit loom weaving. I had an opportunity to visit the Urmul Weavers Centre at Phalodi, Rajasthan, in November 1997. At the time I was researching community-based initiatives that support the continuity of hand weaving skills and knowledge in India. The purpose of my inquiry was to affirm the value of sustaining cultural diversity, particularly, the value of weaving as a way of knowing and weaving as a way of living in communities. While seeking information about innovative education and development projects that benefit hand weavers, I discovered that the  Urm...

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