About > Kutch in Transition

Kutch, a drought-prone district in Gujarat State, India, is surrounded on two sides by salt marsh Rann and on the other two by the Arabian Sea. Consequently, Kutchis have always been culturally distinct and enterprising.

Until recently, a range of ethnic communities of Kutch wore traditional dress, distinguished by rich, elaborate hand made textiles. Artisans of the region were designers, producers as well as the marketers of these wonderful fabrics. They created world renowned extra weft wool weaving, intricate natural dyed hand block printed ajrakh, the finest bandhani (shibori), distinctive batik, and a dazzling range of mirrored embroideries and appliqué for both family members and neighbors, intimately known. They innovated organically, slowly, as their clients' lives evolved.

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In the last few decades, local clients have sought cheaper mass produced textiles, and artisans were compelled to find new markets. Fortunately though, sophisticated urban consumers welcomed craft traditions. However, they wanted urbanized renditions, with continual innovations.

Artisans did not have adequate market intelligence, nor access to the better markets. The conventional solution was professional designers giving new designs, often using an industrial model with the goal of faster, cheaper and more standardized replication. Such "design intervention" met the needs of consumers but, unfortunately, often reduced the artisan to a labourer. Thus, artisans have explored other means of livelihood, and many no longer wish their children to be artisans.

Living traditions respond, communicate and evolve. Somaiya Kala Vidya believes that a sustainable future for craft traditions lies in insuring that artisans can be significantly involved in all aspects of their work.

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