Suf and kharek – just two of the embroidery styles that The Kala Raksha Trust – a grassroots social enterprise does in Kutch – has helped revive. In its newest initiative, the trust plans to train 100 women artisans to becomes skilled in working on museum quality textiles (embroidery that’s exquisite but dwindling). The program aims to instill the level of quality, skill and aesthetics seen in museum-quality textiles belonging to Kala Raksha’s collections and eventually create market appreciation and value for the artisans.
(LtoR: A young woman studying the craftsmanship on a vintage fan from the Trust’s museum; Rabari woman at the Kala Raksha training center)
Literally translated, Kala Raksha means ‘art preservation’. Founded as an artisan initiative in 1993 in Kutch by Judy Frater and the Prakash Bhanani family, Kala Raksha is an amalgam of artisans and experts in the fields of art and design, who collaborate to present traditional Kutchi crafts and arts in brave new translations.
To know Kala Raksha is to understand its challenges and successes.
Promotion of Kutchi Embroidery: Kala Raksha’s design and marketing teams work with artisans that produce Kutch’s famous embroideries like suf, Rabari and kharek among an array of others to create products that fit well in the contemporary landscape.
(LtoR: Stuffed toys and cushion covers embellished using age-old embroidery techniques to give it a comtemporary flavor)
The Kala Raksha Museum: One of the most significant tasks that Kala Raksha has successfully undertaken is the creation of the Kala Raksha Museum, which maintains a permanent collection of heirloom textiles, designs and motifs. The artisans dip into this rich resource to create beautiful and innovative products in updated versions.
Preserving Unique Traditions: Kala Raksha also helps keep key cultural elements of Kutch’s pastoral communities alive by transferring indigenous games played on the go to more permanent formats. Interesting board games like nav kakri, vagh aur bakri and chopad, designed and played by the Maldhari people are turned into patch-worked fabric boards so they may become more permanent and accessible to a larger audience.
(A Kutchi woman making a fabric board of an indigenous game)
Getting to the Market: With the traditional designs to use as a resource bank, the artisans and the design input teams in place, Kala Raksha ensures that the goal of income-generation is also met. Sale in exhibitions and online platforms like Jaypore are two market linkages available to the artisans.
What Kala Raksha preserves is the essence of art and art is identity. By encouraging community members to work together toward the goal of self-sufficiency, Kala Raksha not only helps them generate income through their traditional skills but also realize their strengths and maintain their identity.
Jaypore’s association with Kala Raksha has been longstanding featuring their collections on the site and collaborating to create design-led collections for the Jaypore private label.
Images via Kala Raksha Trust and Jaypore