Independence through seed art

On the border between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh lies a little village called Paradsinga. It’s a village with a difference, and has been the hub of culture and education in the area for the past three years or so. One of the young guns at the centre of this movement — of sorts — is 20-year-old Nutan Dwivedi, who visited Chennai over the weekend to spread her work further.

As a member of the Paradsinga-based Gram Art Project, Dwivedi spends her days trudging to nearby villages, offering alternative employment to the women there. “There are a total of 50 women, whom I teach how to make seed bands,” she says, on the sidelines of the reStore 10 - Safe Food Festival organised at Stella Maris College.

The seed bands are essentially wrist bands which have organic seeds embedded in them. They can pass off as both rakhis and friendship bands, and are a means to provide some semblance of economic independence for these women. “They don’t have the permission to leave their homes or travel, so I go to each household and teach them for free,” says Dwivedi.

Independence through seed art

“Each band is priced differently, and a portion of the cost goes to the women, the seed bank, the farmers who help us source and so on,” says the science graduate, who recently gave up her job to work with the organisation full time. “I used to teach at a school, but they wouldn’t give me leave to travel to Delhi for a seed workshop. So I sent them my resignation,” she declares, somehow managing to make even her giggle sound triumphant.

She divides her week among the four villages. Two of them are just a kilometre from Paradsinga, a comfortable 15-minute cycle ride way. But “Satnoor is 10 kilometres away, so it takes some time to get there,” she says, stating even that simple fact in her trademark chirpy manner.

There’s more to the Gram Art Project than just seed bands. The organisation conducts art interventions among the villagers, and has become a centre of collaboration for artists in Maharshtra and Madhya Pradesh, and even beyond. It began as a collective effort by 14 artists, who eventually began working with the farmers and villagers, helping them build schools and playgrounds. The rustic setting is always reflected in their art, which is probably why agricultural issues are a frequent topic of exploration, and a number of their initiatives revolve around the organic.

Independence through seed art

“We also make seed-embedded paper, envelopes and the like. It’s simple enough: you make it like you make regular handmade paper, but instead of adding just petals for texture, you let the paper dry and sprinkle some seeds on it as well. Then, you place another layer of paper on top, so it’s well embedded,” says 21-year-old Vedant Bhattad, a volunteer with the organisation. “Most of our marketing happens on social media. We deliver all over the country, even customised requests. Sometimes, people who order online want only vegetable seeds, or seeds that they know are likely to grow well in their area.”

The project generates anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 orders per month, says Bhattad, adding that Dwivedi’s team of women have become adept at mass producing the bands.

“When we first began making the bands, we saw a lot of demand during Rakshabandhan. We realised that if we could keep the demand up, we could provide employment all year round. Which is why we came up with this paper. The idea is to employ as many women as possible,” he beams.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 10:07:18 AM |

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