(Debarati Dhar in conversation with Ms. Jaya Jaitly, during the two days National Consultation on Mapping Creative Industry and Economy in India organized by Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia)
Q: How is creative sector different from other sectors?
A: Most sectors that require innovative or creative thinking are creative sectors. Surely website or software designing can be as creative as making a naqsha on a graph to be woven by a jacquard loom? At present, it seems to encompass crafts, textiles, art, films, music, dance, and even food, but this doesn’t make sense as it is too limiting and not inclusive enough. As I said earlier, I believe this is a phrase imported from the West without thinking whether it suits our culture and approach. One needs more considered thought to delineate the parameters of a sector for which we want a differentiation from “non-creative industries”. We have to be very sure that everything doesn’t get monetized in the process of cultural mapping. Innovation is creativity and innovation in software is also creative. So is software cultural? We tend to try and merge two three worlds which I think it is in a way being unrealistic and we have to be very clear whether we want cultural mapping to succeed then it must be kept away from the idea of industry which means mechanization which means product production where a cinema artist, a cricket player becomes a product to be sold.
Q: How is culture and economy engaged in creative sector? Why we call it creative industry instead of culture or cultural industry?
A: According to me, an ‘industry’ is usually seen as where machines are installed and an assembly line process dominates any component of handwork or creative activity which is usually individualistic. A “cottage industry” indicates home/hand work. To be industrious is to be hard-working and people work hard generally to earn, and thus it’s an economic activity. Culture is a more generic term. I would think a cultural industry is where basically activity rooted in cultural knowledge is geared towards production and earning. Cultural mapping is about finding the story behind each craft.
Q: How artistic practices/ cultural expressions empowers marginalized by providing platforms for their social and political capacity?
A: From my experience, I can say that it takes a very long time and for me, it comes from the urge to help somebody who is in a miserable condition and use the beautiful skills that they have. So, it’s a social cause, it’s a national cause and it’s an aesthetic cause. For instance, around 8-10 years back when I visited the village of Badohi (Uttar Pradesh) and saw the plight of the carpet weaving women, it was miserable and while listening to them I found that they were also making lovely baskets, which they made for themselves and presented to their daughters in the weddings. Nobody had sold them, so I decided that through carpet selling they are not earning enough and make them understand that why not give value to your lives by giving value to the baskets? So, make these baskets, sell them in the markets and today they order worth 10 Lakhs a year. The women expressed their condition by saying only one sentence that “Ab sab kuch humare haath me hai”. To me, that was the idea of empowerment. They are in control of their lives.
Q: How individual experiences would be insightful in shaping the idea of creative industry?
A: I again say I am uncomfortable with the idea of attaching the word industry and economy with culture. Creativity is one thing; creativity can be applied to technology and that’s alright as that the new world, the world of the Internet, where it has happened with costing each thing. But when we talk of mapping India’s cultural world, India’s culture is not about copying as we can see in the rural areas it’s a very beautiful thing. Because we have community cooperation’s, everyone doesn’t say I am making something special, I will lock my doors and nobody can see it and its special to me and I will patent and copyright and nobody should steal and its earnings will come to me. This is a very western oriented individual thinking. I feel sorry with that aspect when our Karigars live in villages and they all work out and live in open and if somebody’s things sell well in the market, they all feel happy, they jointly celebrate and they all copy saying that this works well and nobody minds. An individual is a person who will bring his individuality to it but innovation or improvement brought by an individual is shared by the entire community. So, I have been very uncomfortable with the idea of patent and commercial values as culture is far beyond earning. And it is not possible to monetize culture. The artistic aspects cannot live without a humanitarian and spiritual aspect and both spiritual and humanitarian are very strong in India.
Q: How do you see the framing of certain policies can enhance the structure of creative industry?
A: Before anyone decides on the policy framework, we need to have our thoughts clarified. As I have said, culture comes before creative. Understanding cultural aspect is the first step followed by the mapping of creative industry and economy. What I mean here is that don’t put everything into this culture as there is another part of it which is not mechanized and there is spirituality associated with it. Not everything can be economically measured. We have to encourage whatever things are done indigenously. We need to identify culture and creativity separately.