Crafts

The great Indian crafts bazaar

Mala Dhawan, founding trustee of A Hundred Hands. Photo: By Author

Mala Dhawan, founding trustee of A Hundred Hands. Photo: By Author   | Photo Credit: Spl arrangement

If you are happy and you know and you really want to show, clap your hands (clap, clap), so goes a ditty. Well, sound a big clap for handmade products in this day and age of machines. ‘A Hundred Hands', a non- profit Bangalore based initiative is bringing ‘The Handmade Collective', to the city for the first time.

It will be held at David Hall from January 26 – 29, when a host of artisans from across the country will converge with their wares and also give live demonstration of the process behind the products.

Mala Dhawan, one of the founding trustees of ‘A Hundred Hands' is excited at bringing the bazaar to Kochi and hopes to involve local artisans in the coming years. She recounts how this venture began informally, in her small garden in Bangalore. She was a trustee with a farmer's collective and found them struggling to come to the city. “I thought of a bazaar in my garden.” The next year , a group from Kumaon, an initiative from Kundhapur and various artistes and farmers began approaching them.

Mala and her sister, Sonia continued to give the artistes a platform to showcase their wares and retail. They officially set up, ‘A Hundred Hands' in 2010.

Under that they have so far held two bazaars which have drawn crowds and appreciation. Their only criterion is that the product should be handmade.

“We encourage artistes to give it a contemporary edge,” says Mala who is an MBA and has worked in an ad company. Her marketing background helps as she negotiates with corporates on behalf of the artisans.

New look, age old style

‘A Hundred Hands' has 40 members right from the individual artistes to NGOs, who come from remote places in the hills to coastal villages, from States like MP, and Rajasthan. There are many urban artistes too.

There is a surfeit of Indian art and craft to the point that customers don't value the products and the work behind them, says Mala. “We help artistes impart a new look to the age old styles and give it a contemporary feel and effect. We sensitise the customers towards the creativity of the artistes.”

‘A Hundred Hands' is bringing Granny Gregs, a brand begun by Mala and her sister, where they have revived their grandmother's beeswax recipe. Using the formula they are making insect repellent, lip balms and customers can participate in the ‘Make your own balm' programme.

Artiste Varsha Rani of Prachi Silks is bringing Ahimsa and eri silk, a coarse product where the silk worm is not killed in the process. Kumbaya, an offshoot of a water conservation project, brings in trendy patchwork products in the form of bags, bedcovers etc. The livelihood project of Belaku Trust that makes handmade paper, do block printing and trendy embroideries will have their products on offer.

Kalam Carpets, a group of 120 weavers from Mirzapur will showcase their cotton and woollen rugs. Asad Hajeebhoy of Glasscrafters, a Bangalore based outfit that makes products from small recycled glass to Tiffany lamps is part of the collective. Samoolam , a livelihood project from Bihar will showcase crochet jewellery, “which is fun wear”, says Mala.

Gond artist Venkat Shyam will display his skills and Alessandra an Italian, is bringing in a range of kadhi and malke fabrics. Besides these there will be Hasechitra, tribal art of Karnataka and traditional paper cutting or Sanjhi art on display.

‘A Hundred Hands' also has a programme where crafters work with patients of the psychiatric department at NIMHANS helping inmates make “bum bags,” from old jeans in a buy-back arrangement. One of their members is an 80-year old whose finger puppets are moving off the shelves, giving her immense joy. “There is definitely a resurgence of people working with their hands,” says Mala who stresses that the whole idea behind the efforts is to bring back the whole concept of handmade, “bringing back a slow, simple and sensitive way of life.” And that of course deserves a big clap with our hands.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 11:21:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/arts/crafts/The-great-Indian-crafts-bazaar/article13376902.ece

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