Aatmanirbhar Bharat: Empowering artisans to keep weaving traditions alive

The pandemic has changed the lives of many and brought its share of uncertainties. Leo Shastri shares the influence it has had on the traditional weaving sector and provides suggestions for revival.

The on-going coronavirus pandemic has impacted all the industries across the globe but the worst affected industry has been the art and handicraft world. Many art lovers and stores have not only pulled back due to financial uncertainty, but also galleries have shut doors, and events such as art fairs have been cancelled. Though everyone is spending more time at home and renovating their houses and workplaces, the very least are redecorating them.

So, now the most pertinent question which arises is where has this left artists, gallery owners, handicraft exporters and art fair organizers? As it has almost been 11 months now, everyone has learnt how to adjust in the ‘new normal’. Many are seeing this as a good time for them to explore their abilities and skills to bring out the best for them and the community. The entry of many e-commerce players and conducting online melas in order to revive the industry and generate income for the weavers have raised hopes of empowering artisans across the country, giving them once again the privilege of selling their artefacts in the unprecedented times when the expenditure on such items is minimal.

Preservation of the Indian weaves

India’s crafts and textiles are considered as the pride of the nation. But now, our hard-working weavers are struggling to survive and at the same time with the new age dynamics of the market. As the prints, patterns and techniques of weaving change within the few kilometres in our country, we need to preserve it so that these ancient techniques don’t get lost in the annals of time. In order to do that, the younger generation has to take lead. They must be encouraged by the government and local authorities to take up weaving as a sustainable earning avenue. They should have faith in this career prospect as well and create opportunities for the limited infrastructure upgradation.

Expanding skills: Preparing for long term

COVID-19 has no doubt disproportionately affected the weavers’ and artisans’ communities. Organisations and NGOs need to be established in order to address various short term concerns. The textile and handicraft partners working in this sector should help artisans to shift their business to PPE model, generating some income opportunity for them. It is also essential to work on long-term concerns like building resilience beyond wages so that they can sustain themselves in the world during and in post-COVID times. Resilience can be built by focusing on expansion of skills of the artisans and working on developing other less intricate products which are in need at that particular period of time. They should learn to do most of the services in-house like dyeing of fabrics to become more self-sufficient.

Keep the artisans’ and weavers’ spirits up

In such unprecedented times, it is pivotal to build trust with the artisans. It will help all of us sustain our relationships during tough times like the pandemic. They should be counselled regularly so that they can share their concerns. More such meetings should be organised on whatsapp calls with them. At the same time, consumer’s mind sets should be changed. When they see anything ‘homemade’ the value of the product decreases and they feel they can also make it on their own. Handicraft has intangible values like community learning, history, art and culture attached to it.

About the author:
Leo Shastri is Director, Operations & Strategies, at Usha Exim Private Limited, a certified fair-trade multi-product export organisation.

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