Soni and Sunil, both visually handicapped, are quick to respond to tourists looking for newspaper bags, hand-rolled agarbattis or pen stands made of audio cassettes from the 1990s. The recycled products are neatly stacked on a cycle rickshaw, incidentally, their marketplace – where products made by differently abled find space. Welcome to ‘Trash to Cash’, an organisation working to address issues pertinent to environment, waste management, eco-friendly consumption and inclusive livelihoods.
One of their projects called Avacyam, or gathering flowers, is an initiative with a potential to be replicated across the country. The differently abled produce agarbattis and herbal gulaal with used flowers, which the initiative AIMS? to collect from hotels, temples and other sites. Their colourful rickshaw showcasing their ‘Trash to Cash’ ideology is drawing a lot of attention at Andheria Mod, where Dastkar, an organisation working for artisans, is holding its seasonal fair. Backed by Delhi Tourism, the fairs organised here are a hit among Delhiites, and artisans alike. From the ‘rur-ban’ products, to training artists, Dastkar engages in promoting aesthetic wealth from the countryside boosting entrepreneurship and aesthetic acumen.
Dastkaris from across the country
Quaint pottery wares from Andretta (a village in the Kangra valley), Tangkhas (Tibetan paintings), tribal jewellery from Andhra Pradesh, handwoven Kutchi fabrics from Gujarat, Rajasthani Bandhni works, hanging floral marvels, stone pottery from Manipur and organics – the fair is a delight for all. One of the stalls, in fact, also espoused the UNHCR work in conflict-ridden zones, thus, contributing to awareness on global refugee issues.
For the epicurean, there are traditional cuisines from the grasslands (millets, sarson ka saag, litti choka, etc.) to foods from the Middle East. If you’re headed towards the fair this year (and you should), here are a few attractions for you this basant.
1. Andretta Pottery, Himachal Pradesh
Using the slip-designing technique, Andretta crafts are in pastel shades of blue and turquoise green. This is different from the conventional blue pottery from Rajasthan. Shaped into exquisite kitchenware and other decoration pieces, Andretta colours are a mix of blues, greens and earthy browns, highlighting the importance of the Himalayan woods, nature and rivulets in a Himachali artist’s daily chores. Workshops are conducted in the Kangra village by the Andretta Pottery and Crafts Society, amid the picturesque but difficult terrain of the mighty Himalayas.
2. Afghani gems
Intercultural exchanges reach another level when artisans from conflict-ridden countries exhibit their designs and acumen. Meet Saifullah, from Balka Ommul Bulad gemstones. Travelling all the way from Kabul to be a part of the Dastakar festivities in Delhi, his organisation engages in artificial silver jewellery. Glints of sea-green, red and blues catches the eye, especially the huge rings and earrings.
3. Moonj and Sabai Grass baskets, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha
Traditionally, handicrafts deploy techniques of waste management. Artisans from villages realise scarcity that mires their lives. This is why materials like newspapers, old fabrics, leaves, weeds are used to produce daily craft. Taking cue, villagers and artists use Moonj or Sabai grass from UP and Odisha, respectively. Moonj, or Sabai, is an invasive wild weed that grows in farms. Harvested meticulously in October, and dyed in different colours, Sabai is woven into fine baskets, mats and coasters. These grass crafts find a presence in our daily lives. From the traditional jhadoo, to bamboo and cane, products made of this wild grass add varied hues to our cosmopolitan way of life.
4. Tangkha Tibetan Paintings
A variety of Buddhist art ranging from Tangkha Tibetan paintings, Buddha lamps and ornate Buddha idols were showcased. Intricate Tanghka paintings, which are symbols of spiritual reverence from the Himalayas, in quaint blue, red and green, have been exclusively showcased for the spiritual minds.
5. Kutchi colours from white sands, Gujarat
Mirror works, ghagras, embroidery using ‘caurri’ shells (seashells), ghungroo and hand-woven shawls are testimony to just how colourful the lone desert sands of Kutch really are. Maldhari and Rabari communities engage in extensive mirror embroidery using colourful fabrics, highlighting reverence that people from the desert attach to colour — which are in dearth otherwise, in their ecosystem.
History has it that the presence of mica and silica in the desert sands of Rajasthan and Gujarat inspired people to use mirrors in their daily lives, ranging from being used as emellishments on clothes, pottery, etc. Indigenous works of Kutch has brought these craft to fashion shows of international repute. Bollywood, too, has quite a few movies in its kitty from this region. Internationalisation of Kutch craft is, in fact, the order of the day, with the super hit ‘Rannotsav’, the annual winter festival exhibiting Kutch culture, year on year.
Dastkar and beyond
The idea behind these events is to make artisans self-reliant, skilled and help them scale up. Handicraft is one area where governments can work on under the aegis of the ambitious Make in India. For instance, Japan and India have envisaged a project called ‘Village Buddha’ to hone skills of women self help groups. Such projects promote tourism, rural talents and also empower women. This advances our rich cultural heritage both at national and international scale.
Another way to expand market outreach to these artisans is to connect them to corporate organizations through the corporate social responsibility (CSR) channel. Rich tribal art and craft work could be used in office decor, while creating awareness about their culture among employees of multinational companies. Their products could also be promoted under the banner of responsible gifting. But, largely, the idea should be to contribute to social upliftment of artisans, while promoting a philanthropic consciousness, and a larger awareness about the rich cultural heritage, and diversity.
How to reach
Basant 2016 is on till February 22. Easily connected via the Delhi Metro, at Andheria Mod. A parking space is provided outside the pavilion. Distance doesn’t mar the tourist footfall here, which is testimony to the increasing space that handicraft enjoy in our lives.