Art

From the grass roots

The Bamboo and cane furniture rule at the North East Craft Fair at Co-optex, Egmore in Chennai. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

‘The North East Crafts Bazaar’ brings together many of the region’s handicrafts ranging from humble broom to classic cane and bamboo sofa sets, grass mats, basketry and textiles in an exhibition which celebrates “the splendour in grass and the glory in mud.’

Take the Madhurkatti grass, for instance, which grows wild in the Brahmaputra valley. “Artisans like Shilpa Rani Baruah Tara have fashioned handbags, curtains, mats and table mats out of the grass that grows in her parents’ fields. “I do everything from weaving to hand embroidery to add value,” says Shilpa. Ulttam Sarkar of Assam also crafts beautiful Madhurkatti mats like the one that is being displayed now at his stall. “It is indeed woven on a horizontal handloom just like a sari,” Says Sarkar. The warp is made of thread and the weft is the cut, soaked and dried stalks of grass”. His work of table runners and mats, lovely floor mats and foldable curtains speaks of superior craftsmanship, while Anand Dey’s hand woven Madhurkatti slippers are hand woven without the use of a loom. Here, Madhurkatti skin is peeled off and used to weave mats etc., entirely by hand.

Pretty golden grass boxes, baskets and laundry bins vie with Manipur’s Kuana grass mattresses and cushions in defining the region’s sustainable and eco-sensitive lifestyle.

Equally sensitive to the environment are cane and bamboo products, which the North Eastern artisans fashion with dexterity. Fruit baskets, trays, lamp shades, wall hangings and vases are some of the items from the States of Tripura, Assam and Manipur that are on display. Assam furniture, each with a distinct design, add up to the attractive line-up.

The ‘Ahimsa’ Muga silk sari is yet another compassionate facet of the North East’s rich textile heritage. Displaying her beautiful collection of Muga silk saris, a weaver from Assam explains the process of creation. ‘Muga silk is ‘ahimsa’ silk because the insects after feeding on the eri leaves shed the cocoon soon after creating a nest like web out of which the silk yarn is made. We then boil the ‘nests’ or ‘ghoslas’ and dry them, after which the yarn is made by hand for putting it on the hand-operated loom. This is called Muga silk.”

Also on display are Sikkim’s Lepcha weave fabric and jackets, silk dresses with typical dragon motifs as well as Bhutanese embroidered and woven bags and purses.

‘The North Eastern Crafts Bazaar’ has been sponsored by the Ministry of Development, the North Eastern region, Government of India, and organised by the North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Ltd. The exhibition is on view at Co-optex Exhibition grounds, Pantheon Road, Egmore, till September 6.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 12:14:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/the-north-east-crafts-fair/article7586589.ece

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