|The new World Craft Council President, Mrs Usha Krishna, bring presented with a killum from the Iranian delegate.|
The World Craft Council is currently holding its general assembly in Hangzhou, China. While much of the work is conducted by its regional councils, they meet every four years to share their experiences.
This meeting featured a passionate dialogue about the relationship between contemporary and traditional crafts. It was a vigorous exchange of views that reflected a north-south divide, particularly between Asia and Europe. But it seemed a constructive airing of differences with some positive attempts at consensus.
Curiously, this was conducted entirely in English, though none of the active participants had English as their first language. But it was in this meeting that delegates from North America were welcomed back into the fold. Alas, as often happens, Australia had fallen off the map over the years, but there was great interest in the possibility that it would again play a part.
The meeting peaked in intensity with the election of the new President, Mrs Usha Krisha, who has been working tirelessly for crafts in the Indian Craft Council, and has strong connections politically in India and whose family is the very powerful billionaire TVG group.
The impact of Barack Obama’s election is sending ripples throughout the world. In the car in the way from Shanghai to Hangzhou, I asked my Chinese companions what they thought of the new President. One of them raised his eyes from his Blackberry for a moment and said, ‘Yeah, he’s very popular with young people.’ I asked him why and he thought for a moment, ‘He’s cool.’ Obviously, much is lost in translation, but it does sit well with the observation of some that Obama’s term(s) will be characterised by the inexorable shift of power from the US to China.
And the monumental scale and efficiency with which the Chinese have organised the general assembly is quite breathtaking. All foreign guests have their own personal liaisons to make sure everything goes smoothly. The technology runs like clockwork and there’s a mountain of specially designed merchandise especially for the occasion.
Participants here could not help associating the new WCC President with the excitement for change evoked by Obama. The commitment to traditional crafts strongly expressed by representatives from India and China is an important challenge for countries of the north. How we manage this dialogue between traditional and contemporary will be a small but perhaps critical element in the new global order.