The biodiversity of the region is reflected in wealth of wares on display at ‘North East Crafts Bazaar.’

The golden glow of cane and bamboo, and the fragrance of Madhurkatti and kuana grass greet one at the ‘North East Crafts Bazaar’ now on in the city. The climate and amazing biodiversity of the North East has given a richness and texture to this region’s culture with nature literally woven into the warp and weft of its lifestyle. It is reflected as much in the 15th century silk scroll ‘Vrindavani Vastra,’ which is a woven depiction of Vishnu and his avatars, as in the delicately crafted bamboo room dividers, cane and bamboo sofa sets and functional artefacts, apart from the exquisitely woven grass and reed mats.

Also on view are the distinctive weaves of the North East done on cotton, eri and muga silk.

Ngouri is from Manipur and lives to weave. She finishes the last twist and turn of the boldly patterned weave of her kuana grass basket and places it besides the grass mat and cushions, which she has fashioned. “We grow kuana grass in fields, cut and dry and then handweave. A typical feature of welcome in a Manipuri home, the kuana grass mat is woven by the ladies of the household on horizontal looms. The fresh fragrance of the grass stays for a long time”.

Uttam Sarkar’s forte is weaving mats for interior décor out of ‘darba’ grass used for Hindu rituals. His lovely mats resemble Bengal cotton saris as does the weaving techniques. “The warp” explains Uttam, “is set with thread while the weft is grass. Two weavers handle the shuttle deftly with only the grass showing on both sides. The thread designing is also done exactly as in a sari”.

‘Cool’ mats

Also at the Crafts Bazaar is Anant Dey with his Sitalpatti or “cool” mats traditionally used to sleep on. Today they are in demand as wall hangings and floor covering. Artisans also craft Sitalpatti high fashion handbags, baskets and fans.

Says Dey: “The grass grows to a height of 5-6 feet. We cut, split and dry it, after which the stalks are again soaked in water. We remove the outer skin and the reed is ready to be woven by the ladies of the family”. The coloured Sitalpatti has typical Bengali motifs.

Assam’s cane and bamboo furniture items range from colonial style three-seaters and coffee tables to ethnic moorhas and laundry bags. The tiny “coffee set” chairs from Nagaland display rare weaving patterns.

Artisan Hyder Ali from Barbeta district in Assam has crafted many of the cane and bamboo furniture items on offer, which include angular chairs, an arresting bamboo sofa set and a wooden dining table with cane jaali work top. “My whole village works at this craft,” says Ali as he takes one through the whole process of creation. To him it is more passion than profession.

The North East Crafts Fair 2013 has been organised by Purbashree with financial assistance from the Development Commission Handicrafts, Ministry of Textile Govt. of India.

It is on view at Co-optex Exhibition grounds, 35 Pantheon Road, Egmore, till December 8.