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Sasha 40th Anniversary Seminar

Hemalatha Sridhar

On the 20th of November, Sasha hosted a seminar at The Park to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The seminar was entitled ‘Fair Trade: Sustaining Craft Traditions and Livelihoods’. The seminar had two sessions with esteemed panels. In the first session, the speakers were Geoff While, Rudi Dalvai, Johny Joseph, Vikram Joshi, and Jette Ladiges. The panel of the second session comprised Laila Tyabji, Amitrasudan Saha, Archana Shah, Arghya Ghosh, Amitava Bhattacharya, Paromita Banerjee, and Ms Uzramma.

The event was focused on handicrafts and sustainability, which is the core of Sasha. The experts laid emphasis on how handicrafts and art are a preserver of human culture and history, and how they must be preserved in turn, so later generation remain connected to their ancestry. They spoke of how great talent resides in rural areas, where artisans create products with the same authenticity of the former times, and require all the support that they can get to bring out their talent into the world. The presentation revealed that there has been a boom in the handicrafts industry in India, which has led to a decline in migration from villages to cities. The number of handicrafts towns are rumored to be growing in number, to form micro enterprises that sustain the community while successfully preserving such valuable art.

Panelists spoke of how there was an urgent need for further exposure of craft items, to larger markets, for artisans to actually conceive of a reasonable income while continuing to pursue their passions. Certain statistics in the presentation revealed how India has the resources, market, and mainly, high quality items to showcase, but no one to actually mediate such business transactions. The artists of the country, according to the speakers, have extraordinary skill, creating something magnificent out of materials so humble, but the business of crafts might not be lucrative enough for them to sustain themselves if they go unnoticed due to a lack of appropriate marketing.

The importance of crafts was discussed, not only as preservers of culture and art, but as products that carry with them great sentiment and personal touches, along with simplicity. The imperfect finish of a craft item humanizes it, adding to its charm.

The speakers discussed how the designer bridges the gap between the old and new. There was a mention of how certain Indian craftsmen were invited to go to various places abroad to participate in craft festivals. The importance of village Melas were highlighted, as they give artisans a chance to display their creations on their home ground.

The sessions were very illuminating about the current scenario of the world of handicrafts, its future, and the work involved for it to succeed. The attitudes of buyers needing a change was also spoken of. One thing was agreed upon − the artist must survive for art to live on.