One cannot deny that these package arts of small local brands targeted to specific communities have a kind of quaint & old-world appeal. I would be lying if I said I rate the craftsmanship involved very highly. But I can’t ignore their role in the visual culture in general either.
Diversity is the measure of the health of any system, in nature or culture. In a design world, suspected of threatening to collapse into a global corporate-propelled monoculture (both in terms of esthetics and modes of practice), these pockets of community-specific cultures create minor ‘resistances’ and offer dissensions and digressions. This is similar to how vernacular expressions have been known to encroach and enrich the classical which in turn reshapes the vulgaris. Any language—verbal, visual or otherwise—benefits from these dialogs through transfusion of traits that helps the language to re-form itself constantly, warding off retardation or a dangerous homogeneity.
What is also important is that like these package arts, the products they represent are also resisting—if you excuse the expression—the wal-marting of local economies by supercorporates. Or at least they are deferring the inevitable: it is clear that their charms or their functions are diminishing. A product like the jabakusum oil (hibiscus oil) was once very popular in Bengal across classes and communities, but its presence today is limited to certain sectors in the society only. And often the function of these products has either been reduced or revised. But their still extant visual presence is a reassuring sign.
© Rarh Design Studio 2011