May 30, 2009

Gandhi: the original craftivist

Photographer Margate Bourke-White's famous picture of Gandhi taken for LIFE Magazine.

I think Gandhi was the original "craftivist"; this word has only come to fruition in the last 5 or 10 years, but the concept has been around for much longer.

Gandhi advocated the boycott of machine made European clothing as it caused large scale unemployment in India. He adopted the daily spinning of yarn and encouraged others to take up spinning because the garment industry, both foreign and domestic, had usurped Indian workers and Indian culture, giving rise to poverty, unemployment and a loss of culture. He took to making hand-made cloth called Khadi that was inexpensive and suitable for poor Indians. It showed people how to be self-reliant.

To Gandhi, the education of the people was closely tied to leading them out of poverty. On his tours throughout the country Gandhi called upon the people to use spinning-wheels at home in order to fabricate cloth themselves. English cloth was to be boycotted. Gandhi himself set an example. He, who in his younger years had worn the clothes of the British, now wore nothing but a dohti (a simple cloth). He spent every free minute at the spinning-wheel, although his wife always claimed that he was born with two left hands.

The spinning-wheel campaign was directed against the importation of English cloth, but it also provided the poorest of the Indians with a source of income. When visiting England, Gandhi met workers from English cloth-making factories. Although they suffered from the campaign, they understood the situation the Indians were in, and the action they were taking. Gandhi raised the spinning-wheel to be the symbol of Indian independence. With this campaign he had succeeded in leading the Indian people on a peaceful path of resistance. The spinning-wheel is still represented on the Indian flag:

Gandhi wrote:
"...the message of the spinning wheel is much wider than its circumference. Its message is one of simplicity, service to [humankind], living so as not to hurt others..."


PrairiePeasant said...

How interesting! Thanks for sharing and connecting this part of history with your/our work today. Can we also call ourselves craftivists?

OffTheHooks/Crafty Ash said...

of course we can, Laura!

CAROLYN said...

Your post on Ghandi is enlightening! I didn't know any of this (ashamededly admitting this!). Thanks so much for popping over to see my recycled beads. It was really nice of you to leave a comment. I do hope you have a go with your new heat gun - the beads are fun!!

Have a happy creative weekend!

Carolyn x

CAROLYN said...

Oh whoops for the spelling mistake - think I've made up a new word lol

ashamededly - meant ashamedly - now it's turned into a "funny word" and doesn't look right!!! and I'm still not sure I've spelt it right!

sorry about this, I haven't even had a glass yet!!!

KayaNow said...

Beautiful post!