Kala Raksha Trust’s art preservation initiative
‘Kala Raksha’ literally translates to ‘art preservation’ and that is what the Kala Raksha Trust, a grassroots social enterprise does in Bhuj, Gujarat. Founded as an artisan initiative in 1993 in Kutch, 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.
Working chiefly with the embroideries of Kutch, the artisans along with design and marketing teams arrive at designs and products that fit well in the contemporary landscape. The embroidery styles used by the artisans includes regional embroideries like suf, khareek and paako of the greater Thar region; ethnic embroideries practiced by Rabari, Jat and Mutava tribes who were traditionally pastoral communities; patchwork and applique work, which was done by village elders when their eyesight became weak with age and they were not able to do the intricate thread-work.
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 like footwear, bags or home textiles that present traditional embroideries of Kutch in updated versions. The trust aims to preserve traditional arts of the region by making them culturally and economically viable.
New expressions of traditional crafts help keep them fresh and relevant, but the organization also pays equal attention to preserving uniquely Kutchi elements like indigenous games played by the Maldhari and Rabari people. As nomadic tribes these were constantly on the move and to pass time, they came up with interesting board games like nav kakri, vagh aur bakri, asita chamma and chopad among a host of others Designed to test strategic and planning skills, most of these games were once played on impromptu boards traced out in the sand. The artisans at Kala Raksha are keeping this heritage alive by transferring these games to patch-worked fabric boards; the organization provides the games’ histories, detailed instructions on how to play and ensures the good word on games is put out.
With the traditional designs to use as a resource bank, the artisans and the design input teams in place, Kala Raksha also ensures that the goal of income-generation is met. Sale in exhibitions and online marketplaces are two linkages available to the artisans. Since artisan initiative and participation are the pillars of Kala Raksha's work, artisans themselves appoint committees to decide what products will be created, how fair wages will be ensured and finally participate in the sale of their work, linking them directly to their market.