We use this to catch fish during the monsoon months of August and September,” says Amit Turi, a handicraft artist from Gumla village in Jharkhand. The 31-year-old was pointing towards kunni, a fish trap made from bamboo that his family has been weaving for decades, apart from producing tokris to store grains and bamboo furniture. “We also work on our farms for a large part of the year but everyone in our village is involved in making handicrafts,” adds Turi.
He has travelled a long way from his home town to Mumbai to participate in the “Jiyo Junoon” exhibition that celebrates ten years of Jiyo, an umbrella organisation conceptualised by Delhi-based designer and art curator Rajeev Sethi to promote local Indian craft and heritage to provide employment opportunities to artists in rural areas and help them attain global recognition. “Jiyo was formed because we realised that for this sector to survive, it had to be reimagined for contemporary markets. I feel that the hand reflects the best of the eye, heart and spirit; no instrument can ever replace it, nor should it,” says Sethi, 69, adding, “The market for India’s traditional skills has still not evolved enough to sustain livelihoods for millions of our skilled poor.”
The exhibition at Grand Hyatt has in attendance 70 artisans from six states — Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh — coming together to design more than 3,000 products, including hand-crafted beads, papier-mache jewellery, ikat saris and leather puppets. There are also food items such as pickles, preserves, jams and jellies. “I am glad that because of Jiyo I am able to show people the work that we have been doing in our villages,” says Gudya Devi from Muzaffarpur district, who does sujini embroidery.
Also seen interacting with the audience were designers from Sethi’s team. Malvika Vaswani, for instance, spoke about her experience of working with women in Bihar who use sikki grass to design accessories. “The idea is to keep things as simple as possible and use as little artificial products such as dyes,” says Vaswani.
The exhibition is on till April 4