Thursday, November 12, 2009

Live from India - The Artisans Alliance of Jawaja

[Update. The presentation is now available online as a PDF. It may be downloaded directly here.]


On Tuesday October 27th, the Artisans Alliance of Jawaja presented their lecture. Because the artisans had been denied visa's to visit Canada the lecture was held via a web connection. For the artisans it was a very early morning. They had to get up long before dawn and make their way to the Ravi J Matthai Centre where a video conferencing system had been set up by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). Our connection was to be established at 6 pm which meant 6:30 am for the artisans.

At 7 we started. Each of the representatives of the Artisan's Alliance of Jawaja stepped close to the camera and introduced himself. Ashoke Chatterjee gave an introduction to the Alliance and summarized the situation facing them. We showed a presentation prepared by Jawaja with assistance from Anitha Balachandran and Siddhartha Chatterjee in conjunction with India's National Institute of Design (NID). (We are presently reformatting this presentation for online distribution.) Once the presentation concluded the members of the Artisan's Alliance - which represents both weavers and leatherworkers - answered questions from the audience.

The questions were very detailed and showed that the audience had both a familiarity with the Jawaja situation and a good understanding of the challenges facing craftspeople throughout the world.

The artisans were impressed to have such a strong show of support for their craft. The highlight of the evening came when the audience were asked "How many of you have Jawaja bags?" Almost every hand went up. "Could you show them?" The camera panned the audience and a sea of waving bags.

The next day we received a letter from Ashoke Chatterjee, which we are pleased to reprint here:

Dear Charllotte, Tim and all at Maiwa:

Thanks to you all for hanging in there, and for making this opportunity possible for the artisans, as well as for me. Despite the inevitable disappointment over the visa fiasco, I think the Jawaja weavers and leather artisans have come out of this experience stronger and more motivated. I think they better understand the respect and regard which they have earned, as well as the responsibilities that have come with that achievement. And also a more practical awareness of the barriers which exist, as well as of the opportunities. The real work starts now!

Siddhartha and Anitha did a wonderful job. This presentation can have a major impact for the artisans in their own communities --- it is the first time they can hold their experience in their hands, so to speak, and share it with others effectively. Siddhartha and Anitha will work out some way to have a Hindi voice-over so that it serves as a 'tool' for advocacy and pride and empowerment. I believe the new generation of artisans will find it particularly significant. I know the Crafts Council can use it in many ways to build a greater awareness of today's craft world as seen from the artisans' perspective. The Craft Revival Trust has a regular lecture series in Delhi, and the presentation may be useful for them as well, and to other development activists outside the crafts. So Maiwa has given us more than just the video-conferencing opportunity!

Hope the Symposium went well, and look forward to learning of its outcome.

With warm regards,

Sincerely, Ashoke

Look for the Jawaja lecture as one of our first podcasts of our new season. We will put a notice up on this blog when we post the Jawaja presentation.

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