The Kala Raksha nonprofit organization was founded in 1993, in Gujarat, to preserve and protect traditional Indian arts. The name "Kala Raksha" translates as "Safeguarding...
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The Kala Raksha nonprofit organization was founded in 1993, in Gujarat, to preserve and protect traditional Indian arts. The name "Kala Raksha" translates as "Safeguarding Art."
Kala Raksha primarily assists artisan cooperatives in the desert district of Kutch. Included are Suf embroiders, who migrated from Thar Parker, Sindh (Pakistan), in 1972; Rabaris, who are nomadic camel herders; and Garasia Jatts, who are Muslim shepherds. These three communities are relatively isolated and marginalized. Kala Raksha works as a grass roots organization, maintaining close, ongoing ties with each community. Traditionally, women are the artisans in this region. Therefore, most of the artisans Kala Raksha assists are women.
The Kala Raksha headquarters house a museum, a workshop, an office, a shop, and a guesthouse. Each building is designed to blend traditional architecture with modern functionality. Kala Raksha is fully computerized, and its administrators are planning to convert the facility to solar-power.
The embroidery of the Suf artisans involves working from the reverse of the cloth, counting warp and weft threads.
With the Rabari embroiderers, Kala Raksha is working to revive the traditional Rabari repertoire of delicate stitching techniques, which were quickly being replaced by more contemporary mirror and chain stitching designs.
The Garasia Jatt artisans stitch an array of geometric cross-stitched patterns, completely embellishing the yokes of their churi,
traditional long gowns. The Umarkot
pattern, in particular, traces the migration of the Jatts from Sindh.
Recently, Kala Raksha has broadened its reach to include three additional styles of embroidered work, khaarek, paako,
and the ethnic artistry of the Mutava people.
Kala Raksha is committed to excellent quality and environmentally friendly, natural materials. "Most of our textile products are made from 100% cotton or wool, woven locally. The threads, loomed by hand, are dyed with vegetable pigments brewed from roots, flowers, leaves and fruits. Labor intensive, these dyes are beautiful and innocuous to both dyers and users," the organization explains.
Kala Raksha's commitment to the community has seen it grow in different areas that ensure continuous benefits. For example, in 1997 it established the Preventive Health Care Program with a primary focus on nutrition and hygiene. After the devastating 2001 earthquake in the Kutch region, Kala Raksha independently raised funds and coordinated the reconstruction of an entire village - 124 homes.
Kala Raksha's efforts to support the creation of unique and traditional products has been appreciated worldwide. Its broad range of arts include hand-embroidered, patchwork and appliqué garments, home furnishings, salwar-kameeze
(tunic and pants suits), jackets, shawls, and dupattas
(scarves). Kala Raksah also offers cozy patchwork quilts, toys, purses, gifts, and leather tabletops.