Afrikhadi project to promote crafts

Models displaying Khadi designer wear.

Models displaying Khadi designer wear.  

A UNIQUE development programme for promotion of craftsmanship between South Africa and India has been initiated to commemorate the centenary of `Indian Opinion', the journal Mahatma Gandhi launched at Durban in South Africa. Known as the Afrikhadi project, it seeks to apply contemporary relevance to craft through positive design interventions while remaining rooted in tradition and custom.

An initiative inspired by Gandhiji's Khadi movement, it also commemorates the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It all began in June 2003 when a small delegation of people concerned with the development of crafts and khadi was invited to South Africa for the centenary celebrations of `Indian Opinion'. Five craftspersons also travelled to South Africa to demonstrate their skills and potential for collaborative work at the Grahams' Town National Arts Festival.

All this came about through the initiatives of Nadia Meer of Ukusa Designs, Durban, and V. K. Cherian, a Delhi-based mediaperson. While Nadia Meer persuaded senior persons from the government in South Africa to look at Indian craft sector as a development model, Cherian talked to Jaya Jaitly of Dastakari Haat Samiti and others in the government like Tinoo Joshi to facilitate a detailed study of Indian crafts sector.

Meanwhile, Ukusa Designs worked with a few designers from India to present an Afrikhadi range of garments during the June 2003 centenary celebrations of `Indian Opinion' which was attended by the President of South Africa as well as the Zulu King and the elite of Durban.

As a result, the non-violent heritage of Mahatma Gandhi shared by both countries has been linked to create craft and khadi items for supporting traditional skills and employment through indigenous designs suitable for the contemporary world. Designers and craftspersons from both countries, Gandhian institutions and those concerned with the development of crafts and hand-made textiles are involved in this Afrikhadi project.

The supporting organisations of Afrikhadi in India are the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) in the Ministry of Textiles, the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and the Dastkari Haat Samiti. From South Africa the supporting institutions are the Gandhi Development Trust, Durban, Department of Arts, Kwa Zulu Natal, Ukusa Designs, Durban, the Mahatma Gandhi Craft Centre, Durban and the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA).

At the invitation of the KVIC cell under the Textile and Apparel Design Department of the National Institute of Design, nine designers and craftspersons are presently in India for a workshop to produce a sample range of garments and accessory items that will be showcased at the launch of the Afrikhadi Project in Delhi on October 17 during the State visit of President Thabo Mbeki. The event is to be attended by both the Prime Minister and the President and will be hosted by the KVIC.

By Kannan K.

Recommended for you