Prof. M. P. Ranjan, a senior faculty member of National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, and a highly respected design thinker, passed away on the 9th of August, 2015. His passing away is a huge loss for the design community, including students.
As a member of the faculty since 1976 he has been responsible for the creation and conduct of numerous courses dealing with Design Theory and Methodology, Product and Furniture Design and numerous domains of Digital Design. He has conducted research in many areas of Design Pedagogy, Industrial and Craft Design and on the role of design policy in various sectors of the Indian economy. He has held many administrative positions at NID and is currently Head, NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID. Besides publishing several papers on design and craft he has edited numerous volumes of NID publications including the “Young Designers” series and is author of a major book titled “Bamboo and Cane Crafts of Northeast India” (1986) and two CD-ROMs titled “Bamboo Boards and Beyond” (2001) and “Beyond Grassroots” (2003) which contain all his papers and reports on bamboo and on design. He helped build the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design at Jaipur and the Bamboo & Cane Development Institute, Agartala. He is co-editor of a major publication “Handmade in India” (2008) which documents the crafts of India and is produced by the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Government of India.
As a professional designer he has handled many design projects for industry, government and international agencies in areas of product design, interior design, exhibition design, craft design and design policy. As Chairman of NID’s consulting Design Office from 1981 to 1991 he was responsible for managing over four hundred professional design projects handled by the Institute in that period. He has headed the NID’s Publications and Resource Centre as well as the Information Technology initiatives as Chairman Computer Centre and Head Apple Academy at NID. He completed several major projects for the UNDP and Government agencies to demonstrate the role of bamboo as a sustainable craft and industrial material of the future. These innovations contributed to the creation of new strategies for the use of bamboo in India.
M P Ranjan was born in Madras in 1950 and after his schooling and junior college there he joined NID as a design student in 1969 in the PG programme in Furniture Design. He joined the Faculty at NID in 1972 and for a short while, between 1974 and 1976, worked as a professional designer in Madras before returning to NID as a full time faculty member in 1976. He now teaches full time at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He is on the Governing Council of the IICD, Jaipur and is the Chairman, Geovisualisation Task Group set up by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
His website set up in late 2004 is a growing resource of writings and visual presentations on his numerous areas of interest, projects and teaching programmes.
The announcement of National Handloom Day calls for celebration. Any initiative which brings attention to things handwoven, is to be welcomed. Handwoven textiles feel much nicer and possess a certain kind of indescribable beauty. They are a luxury in that a skilled artisan’s attention was focused solely on making it. They are the result of incredible synchronisation of hand and mind. Think of a handloom sari as wearable high art. And then there are macro reasons to celebrate handlooms.
That weaving as a craft has been practiced in India for 5000 years. That historically Indian handwoven textiles were considered to be the finest in the world. That they were in high demand and often sold in exchange with gold, silver and precious gemstones. That 95% of the world’s handwoven fabric comes from India. That it is one of the most sustainable forms of self-employment.
Therefore, the launch of the first National Handloom Day on 7th August, 2015, by prime minister Shri Narendra Modi is an event of great importance especially for those who care for handmade products. Symbolically, the date has been chosen due to its significance in India’s history; the Swadeshi Movement was launched on this day in 1905.
As you know, Sarangi, the Kanjivaram sari store, deals only in handwoven fabrics and nothing else. Therefore, this announcement brings great joy to us – our artisans and staff. I encourage you to make the time and watch the event webcast at http://webcast.gov.in/mot/handlooms/. We hope that you will share the spirit of India’s handwovens and join the celebrations. Please pass on this message to your friends who may be interested.
Shashi Tharoor, currently Lok Sabha MP, speaks about the finest of textiles produced by Indian handloom weavers during the British rule.
Speaking at an Oxford Union Society debate about whether Britain owed reparations to India or not he said: “Britain’s Industrial Revolution was built on the de-industrialisation of India – the destruction of Indian textiles and their replacement by manufacturing in England, using Indian raw material and exporting the finished products back to India and the rest of the world. The handloom weavers of Bengal had produced and exported some of the world’s most desirable fabrics, especially cheap but fine muslins, some light as “woven air”. Britain’s response was to cut off the thumbs of Bengali weavers, break their looms and impose duties and tariffs on Indian cloth, while flooding India and the world with cheaper fabric from the new satanic steam mills of Britain. Weavers became beggars, manufacturing collapsed; the population of Dhaka, which was once the great centre of muslin production, fell by 90%. So instead of a great exporter of finished products, India became an importer of British ones, while its share of world exports fell from 27% to 2%.”
Handloom weaving was an important part of India’s economy and one of the key factors influencing British attitudes to colonial India.
Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/f7CW7S0zxv4. Though the entire speech is worth listening to the portion between 1.34 and 2.30 minutes is specially relevant to those who care about India’s handloom weaving traditions.
Design books are a source of inspiration as well as learning. I deep dive into them to discover the work of designers in lands far and near. Published in 1990, The Best of British Packaging, edited by Edward Booth Clibborn and designed by Minale Tattersfield, is a fine specimen.
Got a call from Srinidhi who is interning with Chennai Live 104.8 FM. It was an enriching experience to be interviewed by RJ Tausif. This was for Man on the Edge, which, as per the producers is a radio show that talks about ordinary men who live extraordinary lives. Tausif is an enthusiastic and affable person and a real pleasure to work with. The recording is shared below:
Alternately, you may like to download the audio file from Dropbox.
The November December 2008 issue of Marwar magazine has carried a 4 page article based on an interview by Melanie Fernandes. The interview happened in the lounge at the Four Season’s Hotel in Worli, Mumbai. Marwar is a premium, bimonthly glossy magazine featuring people who hail from the region of the same name – broadly the state of Rajasthan in northwestern India.