After three years, the Dastkar Bazaar is back with over 100 craft entrepreneurs from 16 Indian states.
Discussing how this edition is especially important to the artisans, Shelly Jain, head of programmes at Dastkar, explains how many of them struggled to find customers and work through the pandemic.
The fair has 105 stalls and features a wide range of textiles from West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharastra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. From Kashmir, this year for the first time, there are pashmina shawls. The collective Naie Kiran from Jammu, spearheaded by Zaheeda Amin which employs over 100 women, has array of dupattas, dress materials, saris and pashmina shawls. Imitaz Ahmed Khan at the stall says that they use only hand woven textiles from various states on which the women do embroidery.
Minnie Dissoria, the founder of Miri, holds up her handbags, made with faux leather, and hence vegan and cruelty-free “Lucknow Mukaish embroidery, aari work, zardosi and tribal embriodery are used on these bags so they look unique,” says Minnie.
At the stall selling DIY traditional art kits, there are educational kits (₹ 330) that teach kids about the courses of five major rivers of India such as Brahmaputra, Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri and Godavari. There is also a doll making kit with material to create dolls, representing Kerala, Punjab, Bengal and Gujarat.
Thangka painting artist Tenzin Lama patiently explains how over 22 artists from Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh have created the works displayed at his stall. Thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Similarly, Pichwai artist Mukul Joshi, who belongs to the seventh generation of artists in his family, proudly explains how his art dates back to many centuries. Besides him, Gond artist Gariba Singh Tekam holds up huge cheery canvases covered in intricate paintings inspired by the forests around his home.
Artists Mukesh Kumar and Rakesh Kumar Soni from Jaipur are Meenakari experts. What makes Narsinghdas Maheshchand Meenakar and Sons unique is its intricate design work which is a curious overlap of traditional and modern designs. On display are earrings, cufflinks, necklaces, bangles, chokers, and shirt buttons which are ornate, delicate, and weightless. Mukesh explains, “Meena comes in glass form, we reduce it to powder, wash it and graft it on metal which is then melted at 800 degrees. this process is repeated 5 times. “ The artist believes in fusing traditional elements of kundan/jaraw jewellery with modern designs that are lightweight and more ‘contemporary’.
Ananda, the brand from Noida, known for its Shibori work on Natural dye fabrics, is here and founder Anup Roy is happy to meet his old customers. “Ananda was launched in 2008 with a mission to work with the unskilled women in the villages near Noida and help them gain skills and sustain themselves. During the pandemic, we trained 20 young women in the village of Sarfaad, near Noida, in Shibori art, natural dyeing and even tailoring. Making them not only artists but also entrepreneurs is our goal, These women will carry forward my legacy,” says Anup. The fabric used is a blend of cupro cotton and modal silk, which makes it lustrous, light, and ideal for Indian weather conditions.
Look out for Lalith Choyal from Mumbai, who strums a curiously small instrument called the zenzula. The body of the instrument is made of sardine cans, the strings which reverberate in the cavity of the wood grafted cans are high carbon spring steel wires. Each instrument is decorated beautifully. Lalit, a spokesperson from team Zenzula explains, “The instrument is inspired by the African instrument nyunga nyunga. Most instruments require scales, chromatics, harmonics and an understanding of notes but here if you strum a single note it sounds melodious. “
“Since most people are overwhelmed at the thought of learning a musical instrument, the zenzula is one that can be played without prior knowledge or training,” added Lalit. Each instrument is made by a small team of craftspeople in Bombay, some of whom are unlettered.
For the first time, Dastkar has merchants from Afghanistan. Mohammed Ahmed of Oriental Carpets and Afghan Handicrafts has a stall vibrant with sheep wool carpets from Afghanistan. Belonging to a family of carpetmakers, the man from Kabul stands on a 150-year-old ornamental sheep wool carpet and explains how each carpet has life running through its weaves and the worth of each increases as it ages.
“I am from Afghanistan, but my base is in Delhi,” says dry fruit seller Ahmad Nabil Nabil. His stall has on display almond, walnut, dried mango and kiwi, fig, cherry, blueberry, pistachio, strawberry, almond oil, walnut oil, homemade baklava, dates, and saffron amongst many others.
From January 13 to 15, there will be a performance of the Rouf dance of Kashmir from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Various craft workshops and demonstrations by artists are planned at the venue on January 14 and 15. And, if you are hungry, a food court offering a range of regional fare, from freshly fried jalebis to quick plates of chaat.
@Dastkar Bazaar is on till January 15, 11 am to 8 pm, at the Co-optex Exhibition Ground, Egmore. Entry fee , ₹30. For details, call 9910802970.