“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master” – Ernest Hemingway.
Crafts are more than the production of physical products. They consist of tangible and intangible heritage. Crafts are a bridge that connects us from the past to the present and is a communication tool. In addition to preserving technique, crafts preserve narrative. It is within this narrative that people find their identity. Unfortunately, crafts are being succumbed to mass consumerism and are contemporising. Therefore, craft revival becomes essential as they are the foundation that builds up the tapestry of a community or a society.
Craft and its relation to the Way of Life
To elaborate on how craft-making finds its way into our day-to-day lives, we’ll be taking the example of the province of Balochistan, Pakistan. Here, needle embroidery plays an essential role in generational art. The oldest motifs sewn date back to the Mehr Gagh civilisation from 3200 BC (Aslam, 2019). In addition to carrying a part of history, this type of needle embroidery has a way of defining lifestyles through symbolism and practices. Symbols of hospitality, peace, wealth, and status are marked through woven motifs. Here, specific patterns and cloth sizes are associated with specific social scenarios. When a baby is born, a cloth called deemdar is used to cover the child, while Kapthook is tied to the mother’s forehead after giving birth. This symbolises strength and protection for both the mother and the child (Aslam, 2019). With time, the practices of needle embroidery are becoming standardised. Its linkage to traditions and customs has been forgotten. Therefore, new agendas are being put into practice with craft revival at the forefront. Regeneration of crafts can impact a single life and revive a whole community.
Craft Revival and Community Revitalization
In this section, we’ll explore how craft becomes a means of identity on a larger scale. Marrakesh is a diverse city with a unique identity that echoes the influence of its past. Here, one navigates the city through the craft of Khatt, which translates to calligraphy in Arabic. From signs to books to newspapers to advertising, all have incorporated Khatt in one way or another. A hybrid of Roman, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Muslim culture amalgamates in this city. One of the best reflectors of this culture can be found in Jama El Fnaa, Africa’s busiest square.
Jama El Fnaa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Medina of Marrakesh. It has contributed positively towards economics and social sustainability. Marrakesh has adopted multiple policies surrounding crafts to increase Morrocco’s branding image and the tourism sector’s influx. With craft revival at the centre, the policies provided professional training institutes to preserve local traditions in the craft sector, provision of new craft-related university courses, and increased events such as the Riad Expo and the Popular Arts Festival. All these initiatives stemmed from the square, which acts as a hub of a craft revival (Bigio et al., 2011). To fully experience the essence of Morocco, you can walk through the traditional food markets while listening to Berber music that moves to the rhythm of street performers!
Morocco Continued – Craft and Urban Development
An Urban Growth Model, proposed in 2001, focused on the Medina to revitalise the Derb. A derb is the most intimate of urban spaces, the quiet alley where children play or where women share lives. The real meaning of the derb was lost over time in Morrocco due to the influx of people from different areas and the rapid change of economic makeup. Therefore, to revive the economy by staying true to Moroccan identity, the model called for an increase in activities through rural tourism development. Instead of introducing new programs, the policy called for interior streets or derbs to be habilitated so the residents are reminded of their traditions. The scheme followed a cohesive plan of action through which opportunities were created for local artisans to showcase their work within the streets. The use of sustainable and vernacular strategies was utilized to rehabilitate the desecrating streets, paying heed to the revival of the architectural craft. As such, authenticity became a forefront for successful urban development. (Bigio et al., 2011)
Craft Revival Today
In the digital technology and innovation age, craft revival is taking on many forms. From online retail to sustainable practice, a new world is forming. One of the major outlets that are adopting these practices is museums. Living History museums provide a unique approach to craft revival by making the visitors a part of their exhibits. From ancient farming techniques to cloth making to reinvigorating lost instruments, the visitors become immersed in their culture.
Secondly, museums are now adopting holograms, VR, light projection, and AR to showcase craftsmanship. This new approach emphasises not only the craft itself but also the context of what makes the craft so unique.
It’s imperative to understand that every craft, whether written word, speech, poetry, music, or visual art, was created for a purpose. A purpose that is a part of our history and culture, making us who we are today.
Aslam, O. (2019) “Balochi Embroidery Needle Work,” Annual Research Journal Bolochistaniyat, 6(1).
Bigio, A.G. et al. (2011) “Marrakesh, Morocco,” in City Development Experiences in The Preservation of Ten World Heritage Sites. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank, pp. 329–356.