Life & Style

How you can help weavers and artisans during the lockdown

A weaver is seen through threads of Eri silk as he operates a wooden handloom at a mill in Udalgudi, Assam, India, in 2015

A weaver is seen through threads of Eri silk as he operates a wooden handloom at a mill in Udalgudi, Assam, India, in 2015   | Photo Credit: Udit Kulshrestha

How handloom enterprises are helping their artisans cope with the Covid lockdown

A few weeks ago, Hyderabad-based Abhihaara Social Enterprise was gearing up to participate in the Delhi Crafts Council’s Kairi exhibition (set to begin on March 19). Like most events across India, this too was cancelled due to Covid-19. Now Sudha Rani Mullapudi, CEO, is left holding 300 beautifully-woven Narayanpet saris, exclusively made for the show. “Spring-summer sales are usually a good time for us, but now there are no sales happening and the weavers are struggling. They could not transport the saris on time and their stock is piling up. I have asked them to take product photographs, which we hope to put up on WhatsApp groups and our Facebook page,” she says. These saris will now be sold for ₹1,800 (plus courier), and they are offering a discount of 10% to boost sales.

Besides the Narayanpet weaves, 100 Gadwal saris and 400 ikat cotton saris have been piling up in Nalgonda, Yadadri Bhongir, Rajoli and other villages in the hinterland. Since yarn has not reached the weavers, the looms are lying idle. For now, Abhihaara has tried to raise some money from friends and regular customers, and helped a few weavers buy provisions. The group is sitting on a stock of cotton-silk and silk Gadwals, which are usually in great demand during the wedding season. The ikats, again woven for the Delhi show, are office wear and board-room wear saris. These range in price between ₹4,000 and ₹4,500 depending on the design. “In Rajoli alone, there are 1,500 weavers and 1,000 looms. We need to clear this stock to be able to help at least some of them,” says Mullapudi (for details, call 9848106027).

Here are a few other handloom enterprises working towards ensuring their weavers and artisans pull through this crisis:

Maati, Mumbai

Mumbai-based Maati, known for its unique, handcrafted pieces, has started a Ketto campaign to help its artisans and craftsmen during the lockdown. The donations will enable each of the 40 artisans to receive ₹250 per person, per day, to sustain themselves for at least a month, and have a support system they can rely on. The funds will go to help 15 artisans of Srikalahasti who hand-paint kalamkari, 15 handloom artisans in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh and 10 artisans who hand-embroider and tailor for Maati. Details: ketto.org/fundraiser/earnings-and-livelihood-for-artisans-during-lockdown?payment=form

An artisan hand-embroidering a fabric

An artisan hand-embroidering a fabric   | Photo Credit: ATUL LOKE

Charaka, Karnataka

Charaka’s weavers, based in Sagar (in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district), are in distress, and sister concern Desi Trust has stepped up. Known for selling shirts, waistcoats, dhotis, etc for men, and fabric, saris and dupattas in naturally-dyed fabric for women, the Trust introduced vouchers for as less as ₹200 that people can buy until April 15. The vouchers (valid for six months) come with a 10% discount and can be exchanged for products in the Desi stores — three in Bengaluru, and one each in Shivamogga, Hubli, Mysuru and Dharwad. Those living in other cities can order via WhatsApp. For details, call 7411120862, or mail desitrust@gmail.com.

Malkha, Telangana

In an effort to become truly self-sufficient and sustainable, Telangana-based Malkha put in place an austerity system last year, as a result of which it will be able to nurture its weavers for the next two months, says managing director Gauri Thergaonkar. Malkha supports about 120 people, including 40 weavers, besides dyers, spinners and sales staff in Hyderabad, Tangallapally and Jangaon. Losses do not stop with lack of sales. “We lost three indigo dye vats last week, and 12 kg of indigo got damaged, and, therefore, rendered unusable,” says Thergaonkar. Indigo vats are almost like living things — they need constant tending to maintain their pH balance. “Due to the lockdown, we couldn’t get to our vat, to add lime to manage the acidity, for example. It will take us about two to three weeks to revive the vats now. The loss is also monetary. Indigo is incredibly expensive and we will lose about ₹10,000 on the damaged vats,” says Mohammed Salim, dyehouse manager. To recover from the current revenue losses, once the lockdown is lifted, Thergaonkar says they plan to have an online sale on malkha.in (with a discount). The orders will be couriered once transportation resumes.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:15:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/how-you-can-help-weavers-and-artisans-during-the-lockdown/article31315147.ece

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