Kala Raksha Trust, a grassroots social enterprise, is dedicated to preservation of traditional arts. Uniquely committed to documenting existing traditions, the Trust maintains a collection of heirloom textiles housed as a local Museum. Artisans participated in establishing this Museum. Thus it embodies a simple but revolutionary concept: involve people in presenting their own cultures.



Research, collection of examples, and documentation are integral to KALA RAKSHA's philosophy of utilizing traditions for development.



The evolution of living traditions is a practical phenomenon. Artisans know excellence, and they honor it by copying. But they would never copy exactly, for that is not art; they always add a personal twist.

Today, living craft traditions are precariously balanced on the edge of survival. Excellent examples of crafts have been removed from artisan communities, sold to collectors, tourists, or even museums. When artisans lose access to their own heritage, the link that ensured tradition is broken. At the same time, with commercialization the functional basis that drove innovation is disturbed. Crafts are disengaged from their role as intimate expressions of the cultures that engendered them.


Collections and Documentation

Kala Raksha's museum intends to make excellent examples of crafts available to artisans, so that traditions can be perpetuated in a contemporary way. The museum focuses on textiles from the communities with which Kala Raksha works and is located at the Community Center in Sumrasar Sheikh village. Each object in the collection is accessioned with thorough documentation. For further synthesis of information, a document containing exhaustive information on each of the styles with which the collection is concerned has been produced. The collections also include a library of books on textiles and related topics, today totaling over 200 volumes- many of them rare, archives, photographs and slides.


In 2005, with funding from the Government of India, all of the collections were digitized onto a collections management data base, introduced for the first time in India at Kala Raksha. Object housing was also upgraded. These improvements increased access to collections, with decrease in handling the objects.


Today, with the collections on a data base, virtually unlimited research is possible. Increased access has increased artisan participation in developing new designs, while providing computer education! Kala Raksha artisans use the Museum as a resource base for creating contemporary products through regular design workshops. With digitization of collections Kala Raksha proudly introduced our Heritage Collection, contemporary textile art based directly on Museum pieces. Today, artisan students of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya also regularly study the Kala Raksha Museum objects and books in their year long course.


Permanent Exhibition

The permanent exhibition presents an introduction to traditional embroidery and a link between the collections and the artisans. Two traditions with which Kala Raksha works are displayed from the perspectives of: cultural context, cultural impact, technique and aesthetics. The display includes embroideries, costumes and jewelry, and employs technology and aesthetics appropriate to the village setting. Enlarged photographs provide a context. Outside, interactive displays encourage visitors to try stitches.


Exhibition text is in English. It encourages interaction through comparing the two cultures and inviting searching for motifs. To orient the viewer to embroidery traditions of Kutch, the exhibition panels are structured as a series of questions:

1. What did the embroideries express?
2. Why Did women Embroider?
3. The Wedding Ceremony
4. How did they Use Embroidered Pieces?
5. What are Embroidery Styles?
6. How Else Did Women Decorate Themselves?

Kala Raksha films including Tanko Bole Chhe, Artisans Design, The Kala Raksha Story, the Masters Voices, and Rabaris 1974-2012 are aired on an LDC screen in the gallery.


Community Development through a Museum

By encouraging the study of traditional arts, Kala Raksha's museum increases understanding and appreciation of art and artisan, within as well as outside the community. The Trust involved artisans in documenting and installing the collections; thus the process of building the museum was as important as the collections themselves. The input of the artisans ensured in-depth accuracy of information unknown by most museums, and relevancy.


For the artisans, assisting in documentation increased self awareness and self respect.  Viewing their own culture from an outside perspective began reflection, a process essential to education.