May 06, 2008

Seagate Provides Traditional Craft Forms in India with a New Lease on Life

MUMBAI, India - Seagate Technology (NYSE:STX) today announced its support of a unique program to help digitally preserve and maintain the dying traditional crafts forms in the Kutch region of Gujarat in western India.

The project involves the extensive digitization of images, documents, instruction and other items to preserve the techniques, processes, materials, designs and motifs used in the textile traditions of Kutch. The program is being administered by Kala Raksha, a non-government organization (NGO) comprising artisans, community members and experts in the fields of art, design and museum curacy dedicated to preserving traditional arts.

The joint digital preservation program between Seagate and Kala Raksha will span two phases, including research, archiving and digital capture, as well as program development, exhibition and scholarships.

“As digital content and distribution networks continue to grow and proliferate exponentially, it’s important to leverage this digital ecosystem to ensure that our rich historical, cultural and artistic traditions be preserved and shared,” said Rajesh Khurana, Seagate country manager for India & SAARC. “Seagate’s involvement in this digitization project will enable this unique heritage to be shared across borders for future generations.”

The traditional crafts of Kutch include weaving, dyeing, printing, bandhani (tie and dye), embroidery, leatherwork, pottery, woodwork and metalwork. Design is an integral part of the craft, making the artisan the designer, producer and marketer of the craft all at the same time. However, in recent decades local villagers sought out cheaper, machine-produced wares, causing artisans to abandon their unique skills – and sometimes their villages – to gain employment elsewhere.

Kala Raksha is seeking to reverse the trend of this dying tradition by providing economically and culturally relevant education in design, guiding artisans in the creation of products with more contemporary forms and functions as well as making these traditionally-crafted products more accessible to national and global markets.

“We are most grateful to Seagate for enabling the creation and support of this program,” said Ms. Judy Frater, Executive Director of Kala Raksha. “We run a museum with an extensive collection representing nearly 15 arts. Seagate support enables us to enhance the museum data base, complete documentation of the different artisan traditions of Kutch, digitally archive historically and culturally important works and complete the teacher’s manual – all of which will become important tools in taking the craft forms forward for coming generations.”

Seagate has always played an active role in supporting social and community causes in India. For over four years, the company has been funding SCOPE-Plus, a Delhi-based NGO working for the remedial education of less privileged children to prevent them from dropping out of school to ensure they have a better standing in society.

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About Kala Raksha
In 1993, Kala Raksha was formed as a registered Society and Trust, whose mission is to preserve and present cultures of ethnic communities of Kutch, India, through their traditional arts, in order to encourage understanding and appreciation. Income generation is the first priority of the artisan constituency. Proactive, Kala Raksha facilitates the transformation of traditional arts into contemporary products by involving women artisans in the design, pricing and marketing of their own products. Artisan initiative and artisan participation have been the pillars of Kala Raksha’s work from the beginning. In this way, the Trust encourages artisans’ creativity.

Uniquely committed to documenting existing traditions, the Trust maintains a collection of heirloom textiles housed locally as a Resource Center and Museum. Artisans participated in establishing Kala Raksha’s Museum. Thus it embodies a simple but revolutionary concept: involve people in presenting their own cultures.

In 2005, the organization introduced the Kala Raksha Vidyalaya (KRV), to address a pressing need of the region - Education. The KRV functions as a design school with a direct marketing link, for working traditional artisans of Kutch (conservatively estimated to number around 50,000). The focus of the school is on acquiring knowledge and skills that can be directly applied in the artisan’s own art to enable innovation appropriate to contemporary markets.

Kala Raksha is the 2004 Winner of the Crafts Council of India’s Sanmaan award for best game (Snakes and Ladders).