Arts and Culture
The paper aims to trace the visual representation of the Indian craftsperson and the re-emergence of the quest for authentic Indian craft in Britain. It highlights recent attempts at rebranding craft and the ways in which the image of the craftsperson takes centre stage within this. While on the one hand Indian designers are refashioning Indian craft and branding it, on the other hand, there is a continued persistence of depicting the craftsperson and their handicraft as traditional.
This paper begins with an analysis of the British artists the Singh Twins’ recent works, Historical Perspective Lightbox Artworks and Contemporary Response Artworks, exhibited at the Slaves of Fashion (2018) in Liverpool and Wolverhampton in the UK. In these series of works, the Twins engage with the complex layering of histories of craft production within colonial and postcolonial contexts, historicising the global trade of Indian craft. They reveal the intertwining of the European capitalist imperial project with the exploitation of the craftsperson and consumption of authentic Indian craft. They reveal contemporary parallels within globalisation and highlight unethical consumption patterns today. The paper will then examine the Make in India campaign, the discourse of contemporary craft production and marketing strategies that produce the notion of an ‘authentic’ craft.
This paper will highlight that the cult of the authentic continues to reveal the problematics of the racialised craftsperson in relation to the modern designer and consumer.