I may be dud, a zero in understanding economy, trade and even business. But I am aware about the social strata and its divides. The word ‘creative economy’ flashed a couple of times the previous week. I was curious and had to know what this new argot meant. I was sure that it had something do with art and its culture. Yes it did! It is how the dying art, design and associated culture with it is being revived and promoted. But that’s a good thing; I take it as a good sign being enthusiast of traditional art myself.
Tapping this potential is like finding pearls in a sea. But it still makes only one section of the society its beneficiary. This pinches me; in fact it has always pinched me. To simply put it, the credit of traditional creativity, art and its legacy doesn’t ever go the right section. There’s always a middle man minting money on it.
I went to a shop the other day, wanted to buy a hand woven shawl, particularly ‘Pashmina’, the finest cashmere wool. Its price many start from 50$ and cross a whopping $200 for real wool. The magic of this shawl doesn’t lie in it being machine woven and bringing the finished good in the market. The real challenge is making the yarn and that’s traditionally done in the heart of the tradition. So what would a peasant rearing sheep for Pashmina wool get? Nothing nearing the profit the middle man and the showroom owner would. Well that’s what hurting art.
I would like to add another experience to the above. I was out traveling a remote village, right in the heart of India. The remoteness of the village can be measured by the fact that electricity had still not reached that village. But alternative arrangement to use solar energy was equally vehement sign of its modernity. Nonetheless, the more important thing was that a temple construction was underway. It was pretty elaborate and I could make it by the sandalwood doors in the making.
The craftsmen or the carpenter to be more accurate was amazing. I watched him crave a section of door with deft and expert agility. And why not, he was born and brought up to take this legacy forward. His skill had not been chiseled in a classroom or mastered through technical tools. They were automatically transferred through generations. The design and crafting was so perfect, that no one could question its perfection. Wood carving is a pretty pesky job, requires a lot of time, detailing and concentration for every bit its done. But how much would that agile craftsman make, just a daily wage, barely sustaining him through the day. In comparison, had it been decked in a showroom its price would be splurge. That’s the difference, the divide.
The profit needs to seep equally among its beneficiary and it seldom happens. I hope the wave of creative economy does that and creative entrepreneurship helps the real artisans do extraordinary well.