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Move over jute, coir handicrafts, Sisal craft is here

‘Sisal crafts’, as these products are commonly called, have gained popularity in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and other states of India.

Written by Swasti Pachauri , Edited by Parmita Uniyal | Madhya Pradesh | Published: August 14, 2014 11:14:21 am
Beautiful handbags (Source: Swasti Pachauri) Beautiful handbags (Source: Swasti Pachauri)

‘Sisal crafts’, as these products are commonly called, have gained popularity in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and other states of India, where the plant is found in plenty and its multiple usages are known to locals.

Utilising basic methods such as obtaining strands from leaves, dyeing those with hues of rich color, and finally crocheting the colorful woven ropes into artefacts these handicrafts provide with lucrative opportunities to craftsmen.

sisal-yarn Sisal Yarn (Source: Swasti Pachauri)


Here’s how these crafts are made
The raw filaments resemble jute or coir to an extent. The advantages of Sisal, over coir are that in spite of it bearing similar texture to coir and jute- it is softer, has good tensile strength, and can be easily dyed in various shades, because of its natural beige colored pigment. Women extract the fibrous substance and leave it to dry. Once this is done, the raw material is extracted with the help of manual methods using bamboo or low cost leaf decortication – whichever is easily available.

The strings so obtained are plaited into ropes, most dyed in rich colors, and some left undyed. This is done so as to yield a color contrast to Sisal artefacts as most of them are woven with a combination of- ‘original’ strands of authentic ropes and the dyed ones- which are finally decorated with sequins, pearls and beads. Weaving, knitting and crocheting are natural methods which women use so as to fashion beautiful bags, purses, stationary products, mats and wall hangings. (See pictures)

sisal1 Women making Sisal bags and purses (Source: Swasti Pachauri) sisal2 Bags made with non-dyed Sisal and sequins (Source: Swasti Pachauri) sisal3 Bags and purses priced in local Melas at Rs 50-75 (Source: Swasti Pachauri) sisal5 Sisal Dolls and Dining Mats (Source: Swasti Pachauri) sisal-6 Colorful Dining Mats (Source: Swasti Pachauri) sisal-7 Pen stands (Source: Swasti Pachauri)

How government support is helping the business of handicrafts
Training programmes organized by NGOs, independent trainers, and government departments have provided Sisal artisans with expanding opportunities to diversify into handicrafts, while also converging with trendier aesthetic preferences of urban enthusiasts. For this reason, one can easily find coasters, dining mats, contemporary wall hangings, tea set holders, corporate folders, and crocheted mirrors in country wide melas, made by several self-help and rural groups.

A woman based training cum product making center, an NGO called ‘Pragati Sashaktikaran Sanghathan’ in Seoni district, MP encourages the supply chain of Sisal crafts from training to sales. The center organizes training programmes for women and adolescent girls, simultaneously nurturing skill and contributing to income.

The administration through schemes such as NRLM provides with training support, market channelization and skill diversification to several self-help groups interested in pursuing these crafts. Women and craftsmen engaged in weaving these beautiful Sisal strands into products of aesthetic relevance participate in local haats, bazaars and melas organized in the country all throughout the year in cities like Jabalpur, Bhopal, Delhi and Indore. Other tourist cum cultural festivals celebrating rural art, craft and livelihoods are regularly organized in Madhya Pradesh like Saras; Kanha National Park, Pachmarhi annual festivals; Seoni Deep Mahotsav- featuring self-help groups making Sisal products, and showcasing their aesthetic talents.

Sociological Relevance: Increasing condifence
Increasing participation of craftsmen in such mass scale events demonstrates that with the help of government support and training, artisans’ exposure to an urban audience, has contributed to increased confidence among communities, especially women groups. Engaged in crafts, a large number of women artists, are now willing to travel to far flung areas in order to sell their produce, demonstrate skill in the national handicrafts industry, and gain larger experiences of societal interaction. Handicrafts industry flourishing in these hidden territories of rural India have therefore, contributed to an improvement in social and economic statuses of women; simultaneously encouraging their innate ability to associate themselves with the basics of craft, color and creation.

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