Dr Ela Dedhia, Head Department of Textiles & Fashion Technology, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan, Affiliated to University of Mumbai, India

A National webinar on NATIONAL WEAVERS of KUTCH  was held on 7th August, 2020 from 2 to 3.30pm, National handloom day, by the Department of Textile and Fashion Technology of College Home Science, Nirmala Niketan, Affiliated to University of Mumbai, NAAC Accredited A Grade. Delegates included students, teachers, professionals, craft lovers, artisans and others related to this field at National and International level.

Dr. Ela Dedhia, Head of Department of Textile and Fashion Technology, gave an overview of the theme. She said that it is the correct and a very important time to understand the present condition of Indian craftsmen during this Covid 19 times. India is a treasure of very rich crafts. Craft and craftspeople (artisans) have always been the life line of India. There are thousands of craft persons and their entire families are dependent on their livelihood on these crafts. During this tough period of pandemic era our artisans are struggling for their daily basic necessities. So this is the right time to discuss and understand what is the present scenario and their future and how to take this further in this era. Connecting artisans directly to potential customers, entrepreneurs and other field related professionals who can help the weavers through purchases or otherwise was also the objective of the webinar.

Dr Dedhia moderated the session including the questions raised by participants on YouTube.

Along with Dr Dedhia on the organizing committee included Dr. Pratima Goyal, Dr. Vishaka Karnad, Dr. Ritu Madhan, Ms. Neha Mulchandani, Ms. Vrinda Udiaver, Dr. Anjali Srivastav, Ms. Sanghmitra Navalgund and Ms. Vibhuti Khedekar. Edfly was the Technical partner and Textile Value Chain was the Media Partner. Dr Pratima Goyal, proposed the vote of thanks. The webinar was conducted through online video platform and telecasted on YouTube for the audience. The Video is available on YouTube.com/TFTNN.

There were three weavers & dyers in the webinar from Kutch Bhujodi. Since many decades, weavers have woven and uplifted this paramparik culture. Weaver Mr Naresh, his main work is dyeing with natural dyes. He is recognized as the Indigo Man in the village. He mainly dyes Kaala cotton which is called as Organic Cotton. This particular dyeing is done since three generations and his whole family is involved in this work. In this pandemic situation, the dyer has faced several ups and downs but he has a very positive thinking towards life. The main Moto of the Weaver in the village is giving a small contribution to the country by making a Chemical free India.

Mr. Madan Magariya is graduated and was always working as a Weaver alongside as weaving is his family heritage. His main work is to weave fabric mainly of kaala cotton which is famous for extra weft designs. Another artisan Mr. Navin Bhai whose family is also into weaving since past 4 years. He is graduated in Electronics and Communication. His marketing skills are good, and he is the first one to started online selling of products in his village. He came up with the thought to taking artisans work and showcasing it to the outside world to uplift the artisans.

The artisans showed their work like dyeing of yarns. Mr. Naresh had experimented different combinations of dyeing with natural dyes in the lockdown. He used the mordant harda and dyes like Aal ki lakdi (madder root powder). Also he showed different handloom products like bedsheets, cushion covers, natural dyes tussar silk scarfs, shawls, etc. He had got orders from California for bedsheets woven from local sheep wool yarns with extra weft.

Due to pandemic, some of the artisan incurred losses, they donot have money even for daily meals, as some were earning daily wages and now as there are no orders and no work, so they donot have money to eat, or survive their livelihood. Around 50%- 60% have left their work and joined in farming to earn their daily livelihood.  The master craftsmen of the village have started talking to the buyers to help them and give orders to them so that the weavers could start again with weaving to uplift the arts and so that they are not left to die. Some artisans showcased their work on Social media like Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, etc. Along with selling to buyers Dr. Dedhia also explained to them about participation in Digital Media fairs, tradeshows, market places etc. Lastly the weavers were very thankful to Dr. Dedhia to give them this first time opportunity on a digital platform.

These webinar gave in-depth information about various kutch crafts, and also about the situation the craftsmen are facing currently due to Pandemic and also ways where students and new entrepreneurs and designers can work together with artisans to help them think of various ways to tackle it. There is a huge opportunity to grow with the artisans and also overcome these problems.