Visits by Nadia Meer, a design consultant from Durban, South Africa to the Indian Khadi and craft institution with V K Cherian, a media activist, reassured their belief in the collaborative work. But the formal launch of the initiative took an official turn when Nadia, who was also a consultant to the Eastern Cape Development Corporation began to articulate her new awareness on Khadi and craft promotion in her official position within ECDC.A delegation headed by a Minister (MEC) for Sports, Arts and Culture, Ms. Nosimo Balindlela of Eastern Cape Province visited India in February 2003 and extended an invitation to craft leaders in India to visit South Africa. This was the continuous effort of Nadia Meer and V K Cherian who has a long running engagement with arts and aesthetics. Together, they initiated a debate on how to protect and promote traditional crafts and arts, in times of rapid globalisation and liberalisation, and to project them as alternative models for growth in a time when the euro-american models are wiping out ethnic/local approaches to life and development.
This resulted in the visit of a delegation of Eastern Cape officals led by the then Arts and Cultural Minister Ms Nasimo Belindela who is the premier of Eastern Cape now, remains an ardent admired of Afrikahdi, Gandhiji. The delegation visited in India and its craft promotion bodies in February end of 2003. A small return delegation of persons concerned with the development of crafts and Khadi from India, visited South Africa. Those who participated were, the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, Mrs Tinoo Joshi, Member, Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Mr Haresh Shah, Chairperson, Projects, National Institute of Design, Mr Himadri Ghosh, and Ms.Jaya Jaitly, the President of the Dastkari Haat Samiti, a federation of craftspersons.
V K Cherian, who was there for the launch of Afrikahdi at the centenary of “Indian Opinion”, accompanied the delegation. Five crafters in different skills also travelled to South Africa to demonstrate their skills and potential for collaborative work at Grahams town National Arts festival. Nadia Meer designed an Indo-Xhosa collection of Khadi materials for inaugural function of the National Arts festival of 2003, where the visiting delegation was specially invited.
While Nadia Meer persuaded the senior persons from national and provincial government in South Africa to look at Indian craft sector as a development model, Cherian convinced Jaya Jatily of Dastakari Haat Samiti and others in the government like Mr. K Jaya Kumar and Ms. Tinoo Joshi (Jt Secretaries in Govt of India) to facilitate a detailed study of Indian crafts sector and support to the new initiative. Tushar Gandhi, in India and Ela Gandhi, ex-MP of South African, great grandson and granddaughter of the Mahatma Gandhi remained as staunch supporters of the new initiative.
AfriKhadi’s formal launch was at the initiative of Ela Gandhi at Durban at the Gandhi Development Trust’s Peace award in June, 2003. Ukusa Designs of Nadia Meer worked with few designers of India to present an AfriKhadi range of garments during June 2003 centenary celebrations of Indian Opinion, the journal of Gandhiji at Durban. The function was attended by the President of South Africa as well as the Zulu King and the influential citizens of Durban. The launch attracted the attention of both the Indian and South Africans present there and Durban Indians woke up to the wonder fabric – Khadi and the Gandhiji’s Khadi movement. A film on Khadi made by V K Cherian and Deepak Roy was shown at the function to educate the Durbanites about the origin of Kahdi, which had its roots in the nearby Phoenix settlement of Gandhiji.
This design initiative was followed up in South Africa with an Indo-Xhosa range show using Khadi and was showcased at the inaugural ceremony of Grahams town National Arts festival of South Africa in July generating huge interest in Khadi fabric as well as a movement. The visiting Indian delegation witnessed the show. Both the shows generated lot of interest in Khadi in South Africa and media including television boosted up the interest. In the meanwhile Nadia Meer and V K Cherian worked on a document heralding the birth of AfriKhadi, which was circulated among the stakeholders who was involved in the entire initiative and worked towards a workshop with National Institute of Design in India, to produce a range of Afrikhadi products
The Initial Supporters:
The initial supporting organizations of AfriKhadi in India are the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) Ministry of Textiles, Govt of India, the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and the Dastkari Haat Samiti, New Delhi.
From South Africa the supporting institutions are; The Gandhi Development Trust, Durban, Department of Arts, Kwa Zulu Natal, Ukusa Designs, Durban, and the Mahatma Gandhi Craft Centre, Durban and Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA). National Department of Sports Recreation Arts and Culture. (Funding for NID workshop), National Director General of Arts and Culture, Prof. I. Mosala at the Delhi show.
The Ethekwini Municipality, Durban (Committed an AfriKhadi centre at Durban beachfront), Tourism Enterprise Programme (TEP) Dept of Economic Affairs and Tourism.
In the Eastern Cape, The Office of the Premier supported an AfriKhadi Show and adopted AfriKhadi as part of its new rural development initiative.