Kaivalam – A World Crafts Summit

…………….a chapter in the story towards a “handcrafted” future!

“Hands that create, hands that shape, hands that weave, hands that sculpt, hands that embrace, hands that protect…………….”, was the focus of Kaivalam, the World Crafts Summit organized in Chennai in October 2012 to coincide with the 17th General Assembly of the World Crafts Council (WCC).

Kaivalam, which means prosperity through hands in Tamil, was our attempt to bring together the like minded in our pursuit for the wellbeing and a better future for the craftspersons. It was, therefore, a tribute to the human hand, the epitome of creative ingenuity and an opportunity to highlight the case of crafts.

What did Kaivalam bring to Chennai?

…………….A Conference on the theme “The Future is Handmade”. Featuring varied talks and presentations from a range of speakers like the Muji designer Kenya Hara, Christa Meindersma, Director Prince Clause Fund, Adelia Borges from Brazil, Rolf Von Buerren of Lotus Arts de Vivre, Thailand, Jean Francois Lesage, the French embroiderer from Chennai , the erudite Ashok Chatterjee and many others.

It was a forum for the mutual exchange of ideas and philosophies on craft and the sessions dealt with a wide range of topics from the contribution of crafts for our economic well being, the role of design, importance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Geographical Indicators (GI).

We learnt how crafts bring hope to people not only in countries working to alleviate poverty, but even in countries torn apart by war- from the Peace Basket initiative of the Rwandan women affected by genocide.

We also heard some very impressive case studies for the support of traditional crafts through the luxury market.

A number of academic papers were presented on GI and we learnt the role that law could play in protecting our craft knowledge. This is one area that requires intensive interactions with the different stake holders in the coming months.

We have been assisted by  exceptional organisations:  Serious Security Melbourne

…………….The Living Legends - an exchange of ideas amongst world renowned master crafts persons. The wonderful space created by them was a source of joy to the crafts people, the participants and the public.

……………. International Crafts Film Contest for students, a first of its kind was the highlight of the summit.

……………. The International Crafts Expo featuring exquisite crafts exposed the participants to crafts typical and unique to the five different regions of WCC.

……………. The Crafts Council of India’s annual Crafts Bazaarprovided a vibrant and visual treat of Indian crafts.

……………. Jewelled Treasures II featuring a mesmerizing array of exquisitely designed handcrafted jewellery from the best known jewel houses of India gave us the footfalls and much needed publicity.

……………. Exhibitions and crafts events at Art Galleries in the city- The exhibitions at the Lalit Kala Akademi and the various art galleries through out the city were all woven into a craft kaleidoscope that kept the city enthralled for nearly two weeks.

……………. Cultural Extravaganza -The Fashion Show by Amrapalli, the visit to Dakshina Chitra, the traditional Elai Sappadu at MRC , The Sari, a contemporary dance and the Whirling Dervishes from Turkey kept the audience enthralled.

The response to Kaivalam was overwhelming and the buzz that we had hoped to create became a reality! Nearly 500 delegates including students and members from 39 countries participated and shared their ideas, concerns and hope on the future of crafts.

The feedback from some of our participants…………….

Hanne Lange Houlberg, Chairperson, Danish Crafts Association writes, I must say that I cannot imagine having a better introduction to Incredible India than through Kaivalam. Now I understand so much more about India and the world since I met not only with people from India but people from many countries.

Rosy Greenlees, President WCC Europe, in her column in the Crafts Council of UK Crafts Magazine says, There seems little doubt that at one level, the crafts sector has to seek out new opportunities, for example, the Rwandan basket makers securing a deal to supply Walmart. On the other hand, it should never forget its ability to bring people together as demonstrated by the organization that empowers women refugees through embroidery. After all, as one speaker pointed out, Gandhi saw spinning as a spiritual exercise for strengthening the Indian nation after the overthrow of the British.

Dr. Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi, President WCCAPR, was delighted with the response in membership in her region due to Kaivalam. Also the significant participation from the African region has enthused her to remark, This has prompted me to create a collective opportunity for the Africa Region to connect with Asia-Pacific during my ensuing Presidency.

Aizhan Bekkaulova, Chairperson of the Union of Artisans of Kazakhstan writes, Our Kazhkastani delegation has received invaluable experience of networking, partnership and communication with other participants and guests of the forums as well as the living legends. We also tried to showcase our achievements and were deeply inspired by new ideas.

In summing up, I quote Dr.Kevin Murray, Adjunct Professor from Melbourne University and a senior member of the WCC APR, Beyond the formal presentations, we have had the privilege of meeting people from many different countries, all brought together through a common interest in making beautiful objects that have a lasting place in our world. Part of living in the world involves accepting that not everyone is the same. Rather than diluting our identity, diversity makes it stronger. Like the shuttle that moves across the loom, the play of opposites builds a stronger understanding of where we are.

Let us remain committed and strong in our quest for ensuring a bright future for the handmade crafts.

Usha Krishna

President WCC (2009-2012)