Ethnic and exotic… that's what Dastkari Bazaar is all about.

Under the canopy of the peepul and rain trees at the Kalakshetra, the Dastkari Bazaar explodes with colour and craft expressions from all over India. As always, the weaves of India in varied textures and hues take centre stage. Yet, among the Orissa ikkats, Bagh prints, colour drenched bandinis and Bodo weaves, it is malkha, the freedom fabric, that finds a unique place. Beautifully textured and soft, malkha is pure cotton cloth made from raw cotton in rural India. On display is malkha fabric which is adorned with ajrakh and kalamkari prints in natural hues.

Jaideep Rana, a paramparik potter from Barapali district of Orissa, brings to Chennai a distinctive range of terracotta birds and butterflies. The process of creating these sounds fascinating. Says Rana, “For generations, local potters have collected the clay from a nearby pond, which is available only for two months in the year. We too collect mitti from there for the whole year, and store it in our homes. We make functional khullars but there are few artisans who craft birds, bird baths or butterflies. I use my imagination while designing each piece.” Rana's birds have perfectly circular bodies and a head which he makes separately. Then he attaches the nose, feathers, etc. and bakes in a kiln for six to seven hours. The final products are indeed pretty.

Another interesting stall is that of Ram Bhagel with his tribal iron craft. Small soldiers marching in an arc stand out for their exquisite detailing. One can also stumble upon a surreal bamboo giraffe made at Auroville or an occasional table crafted out of bamboo with Rajasthan zari embroidery table top in glass. Both have an edgy sensibility.

More gifts hang from the branches of the trees around, such as embroidered and woven stoles, dupattas, belts, baubles and puppets. One can also pick up leather craft clocks, lamps from Andhra, fragrant Sabai grass dustbins, leather and zari mojris, beaded jewellery and Etikopakka products. Every product lends an ethnic twist to the Dastkari Bazaar, which is on at the Kalakshetra Foundation, Tiruvanmiyur, till January 29.

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