IT is a riot of colour and creativity at the Dastkari Haat Samiti’s crafts bazaar in Chandigarh. Jaya Jaitly, craft revivalist and president of the Samiti, reflected on the years of work and collaborations that have transformed the lives of thousands of craftspeople.
“It is heartening to see how much we have managed to do by bringing the crafts of the country on the centrestage and creating thousands of beneficiaries, as we organise bazaars. Here, the karigars are creating new scripts and establishing dialogues with people who appreciate handmade products,” said Jaitly, who was in Chandigarh for the opening of the bazaar at Kisan Bhawan.
Jaitly has been working for the revival and promotion of traditional crafts and arts for the last 45 years, and the larger idea is to keep finding people who need support and include them in the endeavour. “The idea is to place your skill and design perspective to be in sync with today’s needs, yet not compromising on the tradition. We have also started using social media to reach out to more people. Without a formal structure or waiting for grants, we have grown together as a family. The decision of selecting a city for organising a bazaar rests with the karigars, as they opt for places where the sale is the maximum. And one city we go back again is Pune, for we receive a resounding response,” adds Jaitly, who is upbeat about the craft maps they have created, which document the craft and the region where it is pursued in various states.
As many as 70 artisans from different states in India have come together to exhibit their cultural legacy in Chandigarh, with the bazaar showcasing new design developments rooted in tradition and culture. One of them is The Aarohi Society from Uttarakhand, a small enterprise that makes the best of their environment by creating handmade herbal products and cosmetics, in turn generating income for the rural women who make them. Kadam Haat from West Bengal brings an array of home products in bamboo and natural fibre, as Rajesh Roy tells stories with his work on terracotta pieces.
Roy creates artwork on walls, terracotta lamps and trays using Bengali script as calligraphy. Grass baskets from the heart of UP is a project developed by the Samiti, as part of which many women are guided by the Samiti designers to create traditional baskets, with the project providing livelihood to them. Shunya from West Bengal brings fabrics and saris in batik work, while Unnati from UP has created shawls, scarves, and dresses in natural indigo colours created with tye and dye. India remains one of the foremost countries involved in design development in this craft and dying skill.
Khatri Ibrahim Isha from Gujarat specialises in Ajrakh block print. The craftspeople, using the long and laborious process have made saris, dupattas, stoles, dress fabrics, and household linen in a variety of colours in natural dyes. The weavers of western Gujarat have progressed from the traditional occupation of weaving camel blankets to making fine shawls and saris without losing their traditional patterns that express their identity. Linen saris from West Bengal, bead jewellery from UP, apparel in Shibori and Meenakari from Rajasthan, all of it finds space under one roof.