All’s fair!

Glimpses from the fair (Clockwise from top) Wooden alligators made by craftsmen of the Bhule-Bhisre Kalakar society, coir craft of Orissa and Mahesh Kumar Murtikar from Lucknow with his miniature clay toys

Glimpses from the fair (Clockwise from top) Wooden alligators made by craftsmen of the Bhule-Bhisre Kalakar society, coir craft of Orissa and Mahesh Kumar Murtikar from Lucknow with his miniature clay toys   | Photo Credit: PHOTOs: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Dastkar Nature Bazaar at IGNCA brings rare craft techniques to the fore, says SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

It’s a feast for the senses. The heart swells with pride as you look around to find an array of rare craft traditions all over the spacious lawns of Indira Gandhi National Centre of the Arts (IGNCA). More than 160 craft groups from 19 states have brought indigenous craft techniques to the 17th edition of Dastkar Nature Bazaar which, according to Shelly Jain, senior project coordinator, is bigger and better than ever. The festival is on till November 14.

“The venue is new too. Till now, it used to happen in Dilli Haat but the slots didn’t suit us. The crowd there no more values the craft and feels they are being fleeced. They can’t differentiate between the fake and the genuine craft because of what they see in the remaining 11 months,” she says.

There are 30 textile groups, a host of first-timers, some rare products like herbal tea bags and organic millet. The festival revolves around the theme of the Monkey and the Banana Tree. A very exciting addition is the designers’ corner where 20 young designers exhibit a range of contemporary products using their age-old skills.

Of warp and weft

Yet another first-timer at the fair is the highly expensive Bhutan weave. A drape which is little wider than a stole and smaller than a shawl in length can cost up to Rs. 27,000. Rinzin Wangno, who is a weaver herself, called ‘Thama’ in Bhutanese, and has her own enterprise called Lekhi textiles back home, says the price is justified. “The backstrap weave is highly time consuming and takes about three months. The weave employed here is Tima or twist around. In Bhutan people are ready to pay the amount because they know the worth, but here people are surprised at the rate. In fact, not many young Bhutanese want to weave anymore. It’s very strange for people to find somebody young weaving,” says Rinzin who comes from the Bumthang region. The other weaving techniques are Dorji Jadhum or ‘Double Thunderbolt’. “While backstrap is done in the eastern part, the horizontal loom is popular in Central Bhutan,” says the weaver, in India for the first time.

The Blue Wonder

From stoles to scarves to mufflers or kheta quilts, everything is blue at the Living Blue stall. The ancient Kantha stitch meets the Japanese dyeing technique Nui Shibori and the Bengal natural indigo to create these products in Rangpur, the poorest region in Bangladesh. Tushar Kumar, the brain behind The Living Blue, which is the brand name for the textiles produced by Nijera Cottage and Village Industries (NCVI), says, “Working in the craft business for the last 20 years, I was frustrated. In the poorest region of Bangladesh, I found out that every woman knows needlework known as Kantha or Kheta and makes these Kheta quilts. There was indigo too in the region, but nobody extracted dye. We bought indigo leaves from the farmers and started using them to dye drapes, etc. Now we produce our own indigo. The cloth is first stitched, then its threads are pulled and finally dyed in the indigo vat,” says Kumar. The fabrics used are Indi-silk, fine khadi, Motka, Bolaka silk.

Twist in the Tale

How an indigenous craft tradition can be adapted to serve the changing tastes is what the collaborative effort between Indian Institute of Craft and Design (IICD), Rajasthan Creative Alliance Network and NGO Rangasutra is all about. In a unique endeavour, students of IICD — set up by the Government of Rajasthan and managed by Ambuja Educational Institute (AEI) — produced designs for Barmers the traditional furniture artists, who then created 100 products and come to the fair. “There are charpais with a contemporary touch. The table erected at one end of the charpai can serve as a space to keep the laptop, etc. There is a centre table with the stool set. Cotton niwar used to weave the product, which is generally white, has been dyed in different colours,” says O. P. Jangir, who belongs to the community of traditional furniture makers of Jangirs and works as the workshop assistant at IICD. “The idea was to enable the traditional artists to mould themselves to new demands of the market,” says Sangeeta Shroff, Director, IICD. The prices range between Rs.3000 and 9000.

A ray of light

The bottle gourd lamps steal your heart. The vegetable is dried for a year, then hollowed out and finally carved with a hot iron tool, enabling light to pass through. At Suresh Kumar Bharadwaj’s stall there are bottle gourd planters and a lot of other items,starting as reasonably as Rs.200. The tumba shilpkar (maker of wooden furniture) of Bastar says, “In cities, you see only one shape of the vegetable, but there we get it in different sizes and shapes. . In our village, people collect an intoxicant called salpi in dried bottle gourd shells.”

Recommended for you