In his Mann ki Baat address on Sunday (October 25), Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked people to go vocal for local while shopping during the festival season, and particularly extolled the virtues of khadi – the handwoven cloth popularised by Mahatma Gandhi.
Modi made a reference to the region of Oaxaca (pronounced O-aa-ha-ka) in Mexico, where he said khadi was being manufactured, and narrated an anecdote about how khadi reached the Latin American country after a local resident became influenced by a film on Mahatma Gandhi.
“When you go shopping during these festivals please remember we have to give priority to local products. …Today when we are going vocal for local, the world is also becoming a fan of our products. Many of our local products have the potential to become global. Today, khadi is regarded as an eco-friendly fabric and a fashion statement,” Modi said.
“Not only is the popularity of khadi rising, it is also being produced in many places of the world. There is a place in Mexico called Oaxaca, there are many villages in this area where local villagers weave khadi. Today, the khadi of this place has gained popularity by the name Oaxaca khaadi.”
What is Mexico’s Khadi Oaxaca?
Khadi Oaxaca is a farm-to-garment collective which comprises around 400 families, which live and work on traditional farms and homesteads in the Oaxaca region of southern Mexico.
It has been founded by Mark “Marcos” Brown, an American living in Mexico, and his wife, Kalindi Attar.
On its website, the project says it uses cotton produced and cultivated on the Oaxaca coast, and produces chemical-free clothing, relying on locally harvested plant-based dyes.
Before starting the project, Brown lived in India for 12 years, and was strongly influenced by Gandhi. For two years (1986-88), he lived in Gujarat’s Sabarmati Ashram, where he learned about khadi.
Brown began wearing the clothes that he had spun himself, and in the 1990s, brought a Charkha (spinning wheel) back with him to Oaxaca in Mexico. Here, in the San Sebastián Rio Hondo village, he began teaching spinning to local families, and eventually started Khadi Oaxaca in 2010.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Brown said from Mexico, “We are indeed grateful for the recognition of Khadi Oaxaca by the honorable PM Narendra Modi, and couldn’t have asked for a greater appreciation. The points mentioned by the PM were indication of his deeper understanding and love for Khadi. It is so wonderful in today’s world that India’s revered leader is looking out for the humble villager.”
Brown said that he had been contacted by the Indian Embassy in Mexico to speak about Khadi Oaxaca earlier this month, but was caught unawares by Modi’s praise on Sunday.
“I loved that the Prime Minister mentioned how Khadi sustains the way and is not commercially oriented. Khadi Oaxaca is evolving as a model for any village wishing to live those traditions that sustain life and help it to thrive,” Brown said.
“Gandhiji saw the truth of where modern industry and politics were leading us. He was trying to show us the way. Today we must also see that vision of non-violence in our industries and politics. Otherwise we will be going down a road no one will want to see for their children.”