Transcending craft into cultivating creativity

by Mishal Khan
The Artisans, rural women, seamstress, tailor or born makers, see the gifts of incorporation, of collective identity in Aangan, (The Courtyard) installation at London Design Biennale, a cascade of garments — made of over one hundred garments, hand embroidered and hand stitched by 60 women who are a part of Kaarvan Crafts Foundation’s collective kinship.

Aangan is an invitation to explore the inner worlds of the Pakistani artisans through film projections and computerized art. It is amazing to watch that how these women imbue cloth with secret dreams, visions and hopes of the future.

Aangan is a representation of collective commons, integration, transformative gifts that came to life through collaboration with Kaarvan Crafts Foundation. This organization is dedicated to empowering rural women by providing life skills that could open doors to opportunities towards attaining economic and material goods – and Wagging Tongue Productions – a UK based company dedicated to building bridges through arts, design, and performance and films projects.

Defying categorization, these women are representation of multitudes, of being both generalists and specialists. It is this space between the two extremes of specialism and generalism that these women claim and blend lived experiences and knowledge of hand-embroidery, fashion and technology to give rise to a spectrum of possibilities. They are transcending craft into cultivating creativity by sharing their gifts and talents with local community and the world.

Clothing is believed to be human’s external skin. Embedded in the clothing is identity, a visual representation of likes, values and standards. In cities, we eagerly choose and buy our clothing from retail shops – there in forget the secret hands that beautify our external skin. Egos are shrugged aside. These women do not seek fame or glory rather they invest in cultivating creativity and meaning. They are committed to realizing a future of education, honor and home. It is here, resilient spirit, shifts with context, develops alternate routes, gives and receives without judgment; that Kaarvan Crafts Foundation provides space for exploration and development, gives rise to their vocation by awaking their personal gifts and talents.

Kaarvan teachings act as transformative gifts passing of knowledge. These women fuse their generalist experiences with specialist’s knowledge gained at Kaarvan to respond to big issues (financial limitation, educational constraints or fixed mindsets) by creating cloth, a tangible gift as well as pathway to entrepreneurship.

In the villages of Pakistan, women are blurring the edges of vocation, of crafts into gifts. They are sharing not only tangible article of clothing, but also mobilizing their local community to access their specialized knowledge to teach, add and keep the gifted talents in motion.

Think of gifts as “teachings” or as true mentors, which awakens a part of the soul. Such gifts promises transformation as these women strive towards betterment, everything around them, i.e. society, itself becomes better too.

Kaarvan Crafts Foundation welcomes the artisans to reach heights through them, receive an expression of authenticity, self-acceptance and belonging and become interwoven into the social fabric interlocking households.