Working with Rohingya: Art from the heart at Dilli Haat

Dedicated to the cause is working for welfare of Rohingyas Special Arrangement

Dedicated to the cause is working for welfare of Rohingyas Special Arrangement  


Five artisans from Bangladesh highlight the craftsmanship of Nakshi Kantha on garments, at the Dastkari Haat Crafts Bazaar on till January 15.

Shwettaj Jahan’s stall in Dilli Haat, has a green fan made of bamboo and intricately woven with thread. It looks like a craft from the Northeast of India, but the jewellery designer clarifies that it is the work of a Rohingya refugee. “The girl who worked on this was able to get the desired result as her hands are soft,” she says. Shwettaj, who has in the past gifted a sari to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, trained a group in design and weaving at a workshop. She helped them make trinkets, bracelets and fans that appeal to an urban audience.

“I am finally showcasing what they make there. We are facing a humanitarian crisis right now. My intent was to provide them with livelihood opportunities. I got funds from the United Nations,” says this young designer, whose grandfather hailed from West Bengal, before they migrated to what is now Bangladesh. Her assistant Mohammad Arhan, though lives in Daryaganj.

This is the 34th edition of the fortnight long Dastkari Haat Crafts Bazaar at Dilli Haat that commenced on Friday. This year, Jaya Jaitly, president of Dastkari Haat Samiti, has invited Bangladesh, carrying on the tradition of showcasing a neighbouring country's craft tradition, in a bid to foster people to people contact.

In focus is the craftsmanship of Nakshi Kantha, a traditional Bengali tradition that involved stitching discarded pieces of cloth and bits of old clothes to make quilts. Some have contemporary geometric patterns, others are traditional. They highlight the flora and fauna and the favourite food of the locals in Dhakka and Chittagong.

“In earlier times, when Bengali women got married they would do Nakshi Kantha on a razai. Even in those days, they were recycling, using torn pieces to make one piece," says Veena Sikri, convenor of the South Asia Women’s Network and former professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, who was invited as a guest on the first day, when artisans were introduced. She explains that Kantha is the stitch, while Nakshi refers to the motifs: fish, lotus, elephants and wild flowers. "In our part (West Bengal), there are more floral patterns, whereas there (Bangladesh) the fish is the dominant motif,” she explains. At Dilli Haat, there are bedsheets, scarves and saris, some with contemporary geometric patterns, others with traditional motifs.

Working with Rohingya: Art from the heart at Dilli Haat

Tahira Begum, a middle-aged artisan shows the contours of the Hilsa on one of the bedsheets. She's measured the distance between each fish using one handspan.

“It's such painstaking work that four artisans have to be involved to complete one bedsheet, with just the leaf motif,” she says, On January 14th, prototypes of bamboo baskets, recycled jewellery, hand bags with Nakshi Kantha — jointly created by Indian and Bangladeshi artisans — will be on display.0

All the artisans from Bangladesh would not have converged to Dilli Haat had it not been for the encouragement and knack for spotting talent of Suraiya Choudhary, coordinator working for 26 years. It is a happy homecoming for Tahira, who visited India twice and after prodding from Jaya Jaitly, agreed to come.

“She mostly works in villages; so it is difficult to get across to her. Finally, I spoke to her,” says Jaya Jaitly.

At Dilli Haat, Aurobindo Marg; opposite the INA Market, on until January 15

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:45:24 AM |

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