Exhibitions provide platform to traditional artisans

Divya Manohar couldn’t take her eyes off a beautiful maroon shawl with intricate dotted patterns at an exhibition held before Diwali.

She was informed that it’s a 700-year-old craft. “I like buying different traditional weaves from all over the country , but at this exhibition, I heard of Tangaliya for the first time,” she said.

It takes around 18 to 20 manhours to complete a Tangaliya shawl. It was almost a dying craft with only a few families engaged in the work before the intervention of some NGOs.

“When we started working with Tangaliya artisans, we realized many had taken up jobs at construction sites and only two-three families of artisans were left,” said Bela Joshi, from Surendranagar, Gujarat.She is part of Saath Livelihood, an NGO and a project manager at R-weaves, which brings together Tangaliya and Patola artisans and helps with sustainability.

Joshi explained that Tangaliya is an intricate tedious textile work, woven in pit looms at homes. The technique of knotting is used with a contrast co lour thread. It is woven into the textile to create the effect of raised dots. “I realized that these artisans need the help of newage marketing tools,” she said.

Joshi gives inputs to Tangaliya and Patola artist groups about innovative items which can be made from the material that they make by hand. She also helps them with bank accounts, micro-finance and credit facilities and connects them to customers.

“While Khadi and cotton are supported by the government, Tangaliya is not. Exhibitions are a vital part of providing exposure to these people as they cannot afford to setup an outlet to reach out to customers. More than 50-60% of earnings come from exhibitions,” she said. This was the first Diwali exhibition in which Joshi had convinced the artisans to take part and is delighted with the results. The stalls generated interests and led to hours of sessions explaining how the craft is done. Organisations like ShodhSamajik Sanstha & Sahyog Parivar from Mumbai and the Yeola cluster from Nashik too have taken the exhibition route to help the artisans. While the ShodhSamajik Sanstha has introduced scientific ways to extract honey without destroying bees, the Yeola cluster has introduced modern dying technology for all the Paithani saree bachat gat members.

Nitin Sitaram Nakod, a third generation Paithani weaver, is a believer in displaying the bachat gat’s wares through community platforms. Nakod has taken part in the Yellow Ribbon Fair, which was held in Pune from October 30 this year.

Mohamed Ali Mohamed Khatri from Bhuj, who is the recipient of the President’s National Award (1988) for Bandhani work, is regularly seen at exhibitions like Dastkari, SurajKund and Dilli Haat mela and some international fairs.

“Artists like us usually get wholesale rates but at such fairs, we do get some good rates and also lots of appreciation from people. That is most important,” said Khatri. He along with his son Junaid is learning new tricks of the trade and training artists from Bhuj to create more such generations of fine workers who maintain authenticity .

“At these exhibitions, artisans meet other workers and learn from each other. They are encouraged when customers come back for more,” said Parul Mehta, founder-trustee of Ishanya Foundation and organizer of the Yellow Ribbon Fair, which got 120 NGOs and clusters to bring artisans from all across the country to the city .

Mehta started with 35 NGOs but pushed for more when she saw ‘Made in China’ scrawled all over cottage industry items such as diyas, incence sticks and puja items.This year, 88 NGOs participated from the state, of which 35 were from Pune. Her ‘gift hampers’ with hand-made items by various artists were a hit with customers.

Joining hands with NGOs and self-help groups, Mehta trains artisans on marketing behaviour, soft skills, packaging and finance. Many of their products are now available on online portals like hearttohand.com.

“Through online portals their work gets exposure throughout the year. When these artists see the results, they encourage the younger generation to adopt new ways.”