The Urban-Rural Connect

Sushmita Jha & Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 5 October 2018

At The Yellow Ribbon NGO Fair, you can take a look at quirky bells and home utility products made from banana fibre among other things

The Yellow Ribbon NGO Fair 2018, which is currently underway, was started with an idea of providing a platform for artists from the nook and corners of the country. This Ishanya Foundation’s pre-Diwali fair gives their handmade products the much-needed exposure. We talk to an artist from Gujarat as also a group from Karnataka that has given livelihood to economically weaker sections.

The bell maker
Janmamad Salemamad Luhar is a master bell maker from the Luhar community of Kutch in Gujarat. He will be displaying different decorative pieces made with bells in the fair this year. The metal craftsmen of his village have preserved and practised the art of bell making for over 300 years now. Originally, bells were made for cattle as it was believed that they helped in spreading good vibration and bettering the harvest yield.
Says Janmamad, “My family has been making bells since decades and I continued with the tradition. A few college students visited my workshop and gave me the idea of creating different designs. Now I make different decorative pieces with bells. I have showcased my creations all around the world and people absolutely love and appreciate it.”

The bell maker claims that his bells and their sounds are extremely unique. “The iron bells are coated with copper and zinc and then heated in the furnace for hours. Post that we work on the tuning of the bell which takes the most amount of time. You have to hammer the bell in different ways in order to get the desired sound,” explains Janmamad. 

Around 10 to 15 artisans work under Janmamad. All his artisans belong to the same village. He trains them for four months before hiring them as the artisans. Janmamad thanks Ishanya Foundation for giving him the opportunity to showcase his artwork. “The Yellow Ribbon NGO Fair is a great platform for artisans like us who come from the rural background. The stalls are provided free of cost and even the stay is free. It gives us a chance to connect with the urban market,” he adds. 

Fostering entrepreneurial skills
In the ’90s, a project called Swa Shakti was undertaken in the country, to survey which communities are backward and poorest of the poor. It was  a World Bank project and they selected some pockets to foster entrepreneurial skills amongst women. Shrikant Hebbal was then working as a development officer with a bank. In 2001, when he took voluntary retirement, he got involved with the self help groups, created by Swa Shakti programme. 

Says he, “At that point of time, we were not sure how to proceed. We had many discussions and then we identified this banana fibre activity. Today this has become the mainstay of Gramya Turnkey Services.”

Hebbal, who is the trustee of the NGO, explains how they started working with the women, helping them find decent livelihood and at the same time enhanced their traditional skills. 

“The focus of Swa Shakti programme was on people who had no pucca house of their own, were landless and faced social stigma. Before this project was started, the people earned Rs 30-40 per day. Today their earrings are Rs 300 per day. When we started with Gramya, there were 16 women working with us. Now, there are more than 200 women working in different villages. Our activities have spread,” adds Hebbal.
Gramya has also tied up with banking institutes like Exim Bank and NABARD, besides working with Ministry of Textiles, Development Commissioner for Handicrafts and Ministry of Tribal Affairs. 

“Our product range is sturdy, rustic and yet has an elegance of its own. We make table mats, table runners, floor lamps (made  out of banana fibre, river grass and khus), window blinds, utility bags like clutch, tote, shopping bags, crochet purses. We also have a corporate gifting options like conference folders, files, wallets and so on,” says Hebbal.

All these products have been made using specific varieties of bananas —  Rasthaale, Khutbale and Elakkibale. They have good and sustainable quality fibre. “After harvesting of the fruit, women will select the outer bark, which is not too brittle, nor too fleshy. The right type has two layers, which are then separated, and made into a ribbon. It is then treated in water so that it becomes smooth and supple. Then it is handspun and woven on the handlooms. A beautiful, natural fabric is made from this material,” he adds.

ST Reader Service
Catch The Yellow Ribbon NGO Fair 2018 at Creaticity Campus (Formerly known as Ishanya), Opposite Golf Course, Airport Rd, Yerwada, from October 6 - 8 (11 am - 9 pm)

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