Reimagining Crafts in Contemporary Times

The Wire: 31 March 2019

The Delhi Crafts Council (DCC) held its iconic annual exhibition-cum-sale, Kairi, on March 14-16 in New Delhi. This year, along with Kairi, the DCC also held an exhibition called Navodit Shilpi to showcase products made by artisans who have been awarded the Kamladevi Puruskar. These awards were instituted way back in 1986 and till now, over 180 young artisans have been awarded.

The event gave us an opportunity to have some thought-provoking conversations with craftspersons about the current status of handicrafts in India, especially at a time when there is a growing perception that handicrafts as a sector is fast losing its relevance.

The general wisdom is that artisanal products will survive in limited circles such as exhibitions organised by NGOs indulging in nostalgia. It is also believed that crafts will not be able to keep pace with modern realities – like the rapid pace of urbanisation, the automation of production, digitisation and changes in tastes and consumer behaviour. The overwhelmingly young population of India is aspirational and has little time to appreciate the detailing that goes into handicrafts.