Decolonising design and heritage in craft development courses : examples from Sri Lanka, India and Scotland
Greru, Greruge Chamithri Buddhini
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Craft tends to be recognised both as a material culture and as a practice which ranges from local production schemes to global design industries. As much as it is a cultural asset, craft is also valued highly as an economic asset that offers development opportunities to most parts of the world, where ‘Craft Development’ becomes a concern of national and international agencies which exercise a hegemonic view, and is often said to marginalise the local participation during that process. When development cascades to the more discreet levels of the grassroot communities, precarious conditions are created that affect the material culture of craft objects, ideas of creativity, labour practices, class structures, the identities of makers, production processes and markets. It is also the case that corporate and government regulations put in place to ameliorate such issues actually exacerbate them. However, little is known about how the ‘local people’ adapt to these changes alongside a hegemonic view and in return the way they construct their everyday realities. In this context, multiple actors are involved in shaping craft development discourse (e.g. international and national institutions, governments, NGOs, businesses, designers, design schools etc.) where they use ‘heritage’ and ‘design’ to create a particular view about craft development and to talk about it. By mapping how local heritage craft is understood in relation to the global design industry, who mediates and how they mediate in this local-global process, a multi-sited ethnographic research strategy is adopted by following people, metaphor, story and things in, Sri Lanka, India and Scotland—which also provides a comparative interface between East and West. The analysis of the case study and fieldwork data argues for a ‘decolonising’ situation being promoted for design and heritage, moving away from the established authorised notions to have more marginalised viewpoints included. Ways in which this might be achieved were tested as part of this study, through anthropological enquiry, and in the form of a ‘charrette’. In doing so the research attempts to fill one of the critical gaps in both heritage and design studies—that is to propose ‘approaches’ to increase community participation. This is also a major limitation of UNESCO’s 2003 convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), of which traditional craft is a part. The research concludes by offering insights into the formation of policy and practice through an interdisciplinary framework that combines heritage, craft, and design and anthropology.