Kumbham

 

 

 


 

The biggest myths of modernity is development and 'schooled' education.
Development and schooling has worked hand in hand to destroy every other culture and ways of knowing.

 Re claiming Authenticity

My journey into the world of the rural artisan communities was not with the intention of 'developing' them or educating them. I went to them to regain that which I had lost in the process of getting educated.  To learn from them. Having escaped 'education' and 'development' they were still original and authentic and were holding on to the culture and world-view, which sustained them for centuries. I perceived the rural / tribal communities as being wise and evolved. And recognized that only by learning from them could we lead sustainable lives.

Creativity and Self Esteem

 During the summer of 1993, we began a programme with about thirty women and children from within the community, with the aim of bringing out the inherent creativity that abounds in them. We did away with the wheel needed for traditional pottery and the women were encouraged to explore clay with their bare hands. Tools, if needed were also innovated and designed by them. I wanted the aesthetic quality of whatever they made to be rooted in their own culture. I therefore limited my role to only incorporating their creations into utilitarian products. It was a slow process and the products that emerged were evolved at a natural pace. My belief that creativity can and does solve many a problem related to self-esteem stood vindicated.

Sense of Beauty:

 In a profound sense, it is a community's sense of beauty that delineates its culture. When a society or community loses its authentic sense of beauty or subjugates its sense of beauty to the corruption of alien influences, it  loses its authentic culture.  The most challenging aspect of 'craft education' ( if such a term can be used) would be to reassert a community's authentic sense of beauty. In the Indian context it is all too evident that our sense of beauty and aesthetics has been distorted completely by  colonial aesthetics and concepts of beauty. While this distortion is most pronounced  among the educated, its reflection in the products churned out by craft assembly lines is all too evident. Thus it is imperative that the uncorrupted sense of beauty, which the rural artisan communities and tribal people are still privy to, is resurrected and re asserted.

‘Do Nothing’ Training Method

A fundamental premise of the training interventions at Aruvacode is the cultural, aesthetic and creative superiority of the trainees, compared to the ‘developed’ mainstream of Indian society.  Thus the basic attempt at the training programmes is to help the individuals regain their wisdom and confidence which lies embedded within their own communities and culture.

During the first training conducted in 1993, it was very difficult to convince the women about their abilities. The hang over of my NID days did not help matters either. Initially when training methods were introduced with a group of women, we began with drawing straight lines, circles, etc. in free hand and moved on to exploring clay and making objects giving free vent to their imagination.

Natural Learning Process

But subsequent training programmes showed marked improvements. And the latest of my interventions at initiating creativity among the village children proved beyond doubt that the trainers interventions, if at all, in natural learning processes need to be restricted to erecting a fence against outside influences that corrupt the genuine aesthetic sensibility and sense of perfection  of the craftspeople. Through the series of efforts at recovering creativity, the realisation also dawned that what is actually happening in the name of teaching and training of rural and artisan communities is the corruption of their sense of knowing.


The future of the craft

 There wont be any craft left in this country and probably in all the non western countries if the present trend in not recognizing the processes involved in keeping the tradition alive is not looked in to. The craft might survive as upper class past time but not as the wisdom solution of natural way of living . Again school is the culprit.

 While in traditional communities, the craft and all wisdom concerning the craft would get passed on to the next generation as a natural process, today a potter child learns his very own craft against several odds. The pressures of formal schooling thrust upon him aspirations that are in least consonance with his very own roots. In the bargain the child garners disregard towards his traditional profession as well as the associated wisdom.  

And the irony is that even while senior craftsmen voice their concerns regarding the uncertain future of their craft and also welcome attempts to prevent its alienation, they  want their children to attain formal education and only then settle down to learn this craft. This is despite examples that abound of the children who pursued schooling to be fitting neither in their own milieu nor in the world outside. Surprisingly, many of the senior craftsmen learnt the craft at an early age, they did not choose it as a livelihood option. They spent a good number of their years in the unskilled labour market and tried earning their keep. Soon enough they realised the unsuitability of their pursuits and only then shifted their attention towards their traditional craft and it did offer them an independent and sustainable livelihood.