Kutch Kala ~ Threads of life
Kutch district is a district of Gujarat state in western India. Covering an area of 45,674 km², it is the largest district of India. The literal meaning of the word ‘kutch’ is something that becomes intermittently dry & wet; a large part of the district, the Rann of Kutch, is a shallow wetland that submerges in water during monsoons & remains dry during other seasons.
Not only isolated by distance, the district is also drought-prone & being a border district, Kutch has both an army and an air force base.
The language spoken predominantly in the Kutch district is Kutchi language, Sindhi and Gujarati. Kutch district is inhabited by various groups and communities. One can find various nomadic, semi nomadic and artisan groups living in Kutch. Gujarati Ahirs comprise a comparatively large group in Kutch and all of these various ethnic communities maintain & produce traditional dress and crafts of many types, including weaving, dyeing, printing, bandhani (tie and dye), embroidery, leather work, pottery, woodwork, and metalwork.
Some famous artwork & handicrafts of the region are
- Copper Bell
- Pottery Work
- Mud work .
Gujarat is famous for it’s beautiful and versatile Kutch embroidery. The center of Kutch embroidery work is located in the regions of Kutch and Saurashtra wherein the local artisans create some of the finest embroidery-work known to the world. The exquisite designs ranging from breathtaking mirror and bead work to intricate Abhala embroidery along with the usage of silk threads of bright colors, truly make for colorful, soulful delight for senses. In fact, the art work is so detailed that the embroidery basically ornates the entire fabric and covers it completely. Kutch is world renowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these are traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves and their families, to celebrate festivity, honor deities, or generate wealth. There are seven distinctive styles of Singh-Kutch embroidery namely Suf, Khaarek, and Paako, Rabari, Garasia Jat and Mutava . Kutch embroidery is mainly done in colors such as Green, Ivory, Indigo, Black, Deep red, Yellow and off White.
A lot of motifs are also inspired by Persian and Mughal arts that are inspired by animals. Delicate beadwork is also incorporated with great finesse & the work is done on fabrics such as Cotton and Silk.
Suf: This embroidery is based on the triangle called ‘Suf’ which is counted on the warp and weft of the cloth where the stitch is worked from the back. Artisans never draw the designs on paper instead they straight away stitch. Their designs display immense detail in filling symmetrical patterns with tiny triangles.
Khaarek: This is a geometric style where the artisans work out the structure of geomtric patterns with an outline of black squares, then fill the spaces with bands of satin stitching that are worked along warp and weft from the front. Khaarek embroidery fills the entire fabric.
Paako: Paako means solid therefore it is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery. It is often finished with black slanted satin outlining. The motifs of paako are primarily floral arranged in symmetric patterns which are sketched in mud with needles beforehand.
Rabari: Rabari has mirrors in a variety of shapes and patterns in chain stitch. It is then decorated with a sequence of stitches in vibrant colors. Artisans also use decorative back stitching, called bakhiya, to decorate men’s kediya/ jackets and the seams of women’s blouses.
Jat: Derived from Garasia Jats who were Islamic pastoralists who originated outside of Kutch. Garasia women make geometric patterns in counted work based on cross stitch studded fabric with minute mirrors.
Mutava: These are a small group of Muslim herders who have an exquisite style of stitching comprising minute renditions of local styles: jat, paako and khareek work. their technique is fine and geometric.
Bandhani (Tie & Dye)
In Kachchh, the art of ‘tie & dye’ is known as “Bandhani.” Bandhani dates back to the 12th century, and came to Kachchh when members of the Khatri community migrated from Sindh. Bandhani tie and dye became a staple local source of income with the export of bandhani bandannas to Europe via the English East India Company in the 18th century. Much like the local block printers, bandhani artisans used local, natural resources like madder and pomegranate to dye their cloth in a brilliant range of hues. The technique of tightly winding a thread around a section of cloth, dyeing it, and then removing the thread to reveal a circular abstract motif has remained the same since bandhani was first practiced.
After the 1956 earthquake of Kachchh, the introduction of chemical dyes drastically altered the craft. Chemical dyes were cheap and affordable in a time of economic crisis, and the upsurge in their popularity all but erased the original knowledge of using vegetable dyes.
Bandhani has long been culturally important to Kachchhi communities.The most revered type of bandhani is the gharcholu, which is the traditional wedding odhani of Gujarati Hindu and Jain brides. The chandrakhani is worn by Muslim brides.
Bandhani work involves tying and dyeing pieces of cotton or silk cloth. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, red, green and black. The final product of Bandhni work is a variety of symbols including dots, squares, waves and strips. These pieces are dyed in dark natural colors and the background is usually black or red.
Bandhani work is exclusively carried out by the Khatri community of Kutch). A meter of cloth
can have million of tiny knots known as “Bheendhi” in the local language.
Our villages have always had a strong relationship with animals, be it for farming or cattle raising. There are festivals especially for animals, such as Govardhan Puja, or Camel races, cattle fairs, special decoration for cattle as well as some crafts which are made just for the purpose of decorating or identifying cattle, such as embroidered decorations for camels, foot jewellery and tattoos. One such craft which originated with cattle rearing is the craft of metal bells, or “Ghantadi”, as known locally in Kutch, Gujarat (India).
The craft is believed to be over a thousand years old, originated in Sindh, (currently in Pakistan). These bells were used to identify cattle. They were tied around the cattle’s neck so the owner would know of their whereabouts.
The makers of these bells are from the Lohar caste in Kutch and according to some of them, their families have been making bells for as far back as they can trace their ancestry.
There are thirteen sizes of bells and they are customized for different animals. A goat would have a small bell with a high pitched sound, while a cow would have a larger one with a deeper note. Even in the same size, the bells are customized with different sounds, or notes, to differentiate between cattle belonging to different owners. In each size, upto five or six different notes can be made.
The bell is made of iron and coated primarily with copper, along with a few other metals. They are made from scrap iron sheets which are repeatedly beaten to join together and to give them the required shape. The metal parts are neatly joined by expert hands by a locking system without any kind of welding.
The potters of kutch are famously known as ‘kumbhars’ in the local language. Gundayali, Khavda, Bhuj and Lodiya are the places renowned for their pottery art. MudWork. Clay craft is ingrained deeply into Kutch’s ancient tradition. Kutch is known for its Terracotta, mud mirror work, which has both scared as well as aesthetic appeal. The wet clay, molded into different shapes and sizes is an artistic expression of the vision and correlation of the society. Clay craft is also known as Contemporary Mud work in which, attractive wall pieces with small mirrors are made in Kutch. Traditional clay utensils like pots, Tawadi, Plates, Bowls, etc. with hand paintings are made in Kutch.
Mud and mirror work is known as Lippan Kaam. It is a traditional mural craft of Kutch. It is also called as Chittar Kaam. The origins of Lipan Kaam are unknown. Various communities in Kutchdo mud-relief work and have their own distinct style of lippan kaam. The dung used is that of a camel or wild ass and acts as a binding agent as it is rich in fibres. The clay used is mud which has been passed through a sieve to obtain fine particles that mix more easily. Equal proportion of dung and clay are mixed and kneaded to form the dough used for lippan kaam.
The skill of rural artisans continues to be old and the technology applied is at best traditional & at times ancient. The economic condition of the artisans involved in these various skills is beneath satisfactory, which makes their ability to market their products and artwork a challenging feat to achieve thus leading to fewer items sold and lesser profit induced. Their education & training is either not upto modern, competitive standards or in some cases, completely missing and their linkages with rural development institutions are either non-existent or weak. Their language barrier, inability to have well informed dialogue and tendency to remain “small” and “satisfied” are some of their other problems.
Reasons for Problems faced by the Unorganized Sector of Artisans:
- Lack of Skills
- Minimal exposure to Information & technology.
- Lack of Formal Training
- Absence of non-farm policy
- Marketing support
- Non-competitive products
- Unable to thrive competition
- Application of traditional, passed down techniques..
Through continued efforts and interactions with local artisans, certain common challenging aspects caused due to the factors mentioned above have been recorded. These are –
- Neglect by State and Central Governments
- Non-Coverage under Agricultural Relief Programmes
- Non-Involvement in Rural Development Programmes
- Lack of Skill Improvement and Technology Up gradation
- Lack of Specialized Markets
- Non-existence of Infrastructural Facilities
- Non-Availability of Quality Raw Materials
- Weak Financial Power
- Inability to Get Bank Loans
- Poor Access to Information
At Sewa International, we realise and firmly stand by the fact that Skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development of any country. The economy becomes more productive, innovative and competitive through the development of a flourishing and self-sufficient skilled human capital. Increasing pace of globalization and technological changes provide both challenges and growth opportunities for economic expansion and job creation. To take advantage of these opportunities as well as to minimise the social costs and dislocation, which the transition to a more open economy entails, the level and quality of skills that a nation possesses are becoming critical factors. Countries with higher and better levels of skills adjust more effectively to the challenges and opportunities of globalization than others (Planning Commission 2007). There is always a difference between „knowing‟ and “performing‟, and the gap is explained by inadequacy of skill. Skill development, therefore, means: all the efforts that allow somebody to learn to do something better than before, or do something new that s//he has not done before, and which results in concrete change in their livelihoods (Ueli 2006).
It is observed that the principal factors which affect the level of efficiency of labour are knowledge and skills (Tiwari et al 1999). The motive for acquisition of knowledge vis-à- vis skills, however, involves perspectives other than joining the employment market for livelihood. To gain efficiency, knowledge may be an important factor for labour, but it is only a component along with practice and experience. Therefore, from the perspective of developing economies, issues in skill development have assumed immediate priority in planning and practice.
In India, skills are generally acquired through intergenerational learning and/or systems of informal apprenticeships. The lack of formal education in such cases does not stop workers from acquiring skills. Informal skills are distributed across a wider cross-section of the population than formal skills, and they are more widespread nearer the base of the socioeconomic pyramid (Srivastava 2008). In India, as noted above, twice as many people (7.8 percent) were imbued with informal skills than with formal skills (3.7 per cent). Since traditional manufacturing skills are highest in the caste groups presently classified as OBC (Other Backward Classes), the highest proportion of people with such skills are in this group, followed by Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and other caste groups.
The main issue underlying the strong association between the existence of informal skills, on the one hand, and poverty and vulnerability, on the other, is that many of the skills reside in the workers attached to the languishing trades/sectors. Moreover, the valuation of traditional skills is also an issue. Taken together, workers with informal skills are not able to effectively exploit the opportunities in the emerging labour market; such skills are not able to provide a way out of poverty to them (Srivastava 2008). Though they are more open to skilled labour forces, employers in the highly competitive and organized sectors find it difficult to invest in skill up-gradation of labour equipped with only informal skills. Artisans and other poor workers with informal skills cannot afford, by themselves, the costly demand-led skill upgradation training. The resources of the state, with shrinking space and finance, are also unequal to the task in hand.
THE SEWA ‘KUTCH’ INITIATIVE
The Earthquake which hit Gujarat in 2001 killed more than 20,000 people and injured about 1,70,000 people. Around 250 villages and 4,00,000 homes were destroyed. About 40 lakh people were affected in total. As the epicenter was located in Kutch, the entire region was the worst affected. Sewa International was involved in the reconstruction of 1800 houses, 14 villages, and more than 250 schools.
SEWA INTERNATIONAL ENDEAVOURS
The main objective of SEWA efforts in the region of Kutch were as listed below –
Skill Development of Women Artisans through Training, Marketing and Support Services To build the capacity of unskilled artisans to upgrade their skills. To add additional skilled artisans through master craftsperson, who possess good skills for better value additions, quality of output, finishing and innovative techniques use of improved tools and technology. Promotion and display of finished goods at government exhibitions. Entrepreneurship Development program at village level. To enable improved production as well as productivity to adapt the changing trends in the market by introducing new design and techniques.
Sewa International started the Gujarat Rehabilitation Project i.e. “Empowering women Self Help Group” (SHG) to organize and manage sustainable entrepreneurship programme” in the Kutch district of Gujarat which was supported by India Development and Relief Fund (USA). The artisans were provided interim relief through the provision of toolkits to upgrade their work. However, many long-term problems lingered. These problems included loss of livelihoods, loss of infrastructure, and poor access to working capital and markets. A long-term solution for the artisan groups was the need of the hour.
Sewa international got engaged in the creation of sustainable livelihood for women. It identified and motivated poor women in rural areas, provided capacity building workshop, training cum exhibition, and provided financial assistance to these women by linking them to the banks and facilitating them to avail timely loans efficiently. This helped Sewa International as an organization to evolve and prove a financially sustainable MED model for the poor.
During the initial stage of the rehabilitation program, Kuran village of Khavda was identified and 18 women were selected to cater trainings which will enhance their skills in embroidery. A Self Help Group named Momai Maa Mahila Mandal was constituted as per the interest and will of these women. Later on, 20 women were identified and another S.H.G named Umiya Mahila Mandal was formed in Jiyapar village of Nakhatrana.
Women artisans from both Embroidery and Bandhni sector were identified based on their interest, prior skill set, future goal and resource base at the village level. Mapping was based on potential, level, type, production, capacity, quality marketing capacity, etc of artisans and weavers. This helped identify the potential artisans and build their capacity in a participatory manner and to produce quality products through high end quality training. This also helped have complete ownership of products and its processes by the women artisans.
Entrepreneurship Development Programme
Entrepreneurship development programme for skill development in Bandhani and embroidery was organized for eight months. Skill development helped women artisans manufacture suit lengths, dupatta, stoles and sarees of Bandhani & through embroidery they learned to add value & beauty to the product. Approximately 750 artisans are working and supporting their family financially through this program.
Technical Training Programme
Technical training was given to women members of Embroidery sector and Bandhni sector over a period of three years. There have since been 8 technical trainings per year. Each training continues for 10 days and one training program has upward of 25 women members. Each of the women artisans are also given a remuneration per day during the training period. Trainers are invited from Pearl Academy, New Delhi and NIFT, New Delhi who are specialised in design and quality trainings. These trainings are conducted at the village level. This helps women to have easy access to the training venue and as the area is in close vicinity familiarity isn’t an issue.
Marketing Support / Linkages by Sewa Kala Srushti Private Limited
This is a crucial part of the initiative model in order to promote the finished goods prepared by the women. This is done through the involvement of experts and by taking help of government platforms. Exhibitions at state and National level are of priority to display the products and to promote the same The Government Level Marketing will be done through participation in state and national level mela/exhibitions. Tie ups are formed with the tourism department of other state governments. Exhibitions are largely held at Dastkari Haat Samiti in New Delhi for artisans to promote their products.
Socio-economic empowerment of women:
The training program along with providing skills to women artisans also empowers them socially and economically. Upgradation in their skills helps them avail better opportunities in the market, to have better bargaining power, help them to understand market demands and dynamics. This also helps them to earn more.
Sewa International design cell
Kutch is working with women who sew, embroider and tie-dye fabric for urban market. There quality is good and they sell most of the material which they make. This is very commendable for an NGO which is only a few years old and now, working with more and more women in many villages of Kutch. As they have been making the same design and selling it to the same market since last few years, the customers have become loyal patrons, creating a sort of ‘fixed’ market for the artisans involved which is great from a demand & supply stand point and also an economic perspective.
In the present scenario, the ripple effect of these groups reaches to almost 1200 women members in 92 SHGs covering almost 16 villages of Kutch district namely Kuran, Jhura, Keshav Nagar, Lodai, Dhaneti, Madhapar, Atal Nagar, Jiyapar, Narayan Nagar, Nava Nagar, Nakhatrana, Ashapar, Dayapar, Guneri, Kotda, Mangwada.
On 21 st June 2012, Sewa International Design & Development Centre (SIDDC) was inaugurated by our current (then CM of Gujarat) Honorable PM, Shri Narendra Bhai, at Jiyapar Tal, Nakhatrana, Kutch District, Gujarat. This centre is providing regular employment to 25 tailors and indirect employment to around 600 women involved in Embroidery/Bandhani work in 16 villages. During the last five years, Sewa International has trained more than 2000 women artisans under the Technical Training Program (TTP) in Kutch. The artisans since been associated with the organization and doing quality bandhani (Tie & Die) and embroidery work. The organization also trained 150 women master tailors under the
Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP).
On a regular basis, the trustees, mentors, donors and many dignitaries visit our project and interact with the beneficiaries. They provide valuable suggestions to the project team which gets incorporated into the future strategy and planning.
Shri Santosh Gangwar, Minister of State, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, has visited Sewa International Design & Development Centre at Jiyapur village of Kutch district. During the visit, Shri Santosh Gangwar interacted with women artisan on their experience in association with Sewa International. He was very impressed with the intensive work being carried out by Sewa International. He told that Sewa International, is significantly contributing to the improvement of the living status of women artisans and in the future, he will ensure that Design & Development Centre driven by Sewa International will get support by the “Common Facilitation Centre” (CFC) scheme, so more women can be benefited by this scheme. Ministry of Textile, Government of India, provided 20 sewing machines, 2 interlock sewing machines and a cutting machine to run Common Facilitation Centre (CFC) in Kutch district. This CFC provided an opportunity to the women artisans so that they can have a hands-on experience.
Dr. S.K. Panda, Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI visited Sewa International Design & Development Centre (SIDDC), Jiyapar on 28th November 2015. He had a meeting with project beneficiaries and interacted with them. He mentioned that in coming futures these artisans should be associated with the Government schemes also. He appreciated the work done by Sewa International empower the women artisans in the craft sector. The visitors appreciated the model of Sewa International and congratulate them for their commitment to sustainability. They also mentioned that Sewa International should works in association with Government department and should upscale their model.
In order to further strengthen the Kutch empowerment initiative, Sewa International launched its project KASHI TO KUTCH. The project is a fusion of Kutch Embroidery/Bandhani arts with Banarasi weaving/brocade work.
Kashi to Kutch program is a Sewa International initiative, where the organization takes the cloth woven by weavers of the Banaras and send this cloth to Kutch, where Sewa Kutch’s artisan women perform intricate Kutchi embroidery to make a beautiful and one of its kind products in the world. The program is also enriching the artisans and their crafts.
Geographically, the artisans of both the crafts are couple of thousand kilometers apart. But due to this program, they not only get to learn about the other craft but also about a new work
Culture. Sewa International has organized Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP), Technical Training Program (TTP) and Design Development Workshop(s) at Ramnagar, Varanasi for the weavers.
In less than a year, the organization has already imparted trainings to 50 weavers of Varanasi district. These training programs have greatly benefited our weavers to improve upon their quality and imparted better understanding of market needs. The products developed by the trained weavers were sold in the exhibition titled Jasan-a- Ustaad organized by Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2015. The exhibition was attended by dignitaries like Mrs. Najma Heptullah and Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who appreciated immensely the concept of the Kashi to Kutch program and its products.
The other avenues where our products are regularly exhibited and marketed are Dastkari Haat Samiti, Delhi Haat, and SurajKund Mela in Delhi/NCR as well as various state exhibitions across India. Sewa International stalls always attract visitors who not only appreciate our ground but also demand more range in the products!
SKSPL, as a Private Company is a conglomeration of women artisans in the handicraft sector. The vision of SKSPL is to ensure that craftswomen in the informal sector have socio-economic security and full employment, by building up of grass root business enterprise of the artisans. SKSPL achieves this by sustained, profitable, and efficient coordination of the design, production and marketing of their products and services in mainstream national and global markets The main objective of SKSPL is to create value for its artisan members by manufacturing, forward and backward linkages and marketing/selling its products through various forums & platforms and ensuring livelihood security for the artisans and their family members.
The main objectives are:-
To ensure effective, collective participation of all the members involved in production and marketing process for optimal growth in human resource, production, business and income through private company.
To provide its members (shareholders) long term livelihood security by selling the embroideries and craft skilled products manufactured by its shareholders (members).
To increase socio-economic status of artisans and their family members.
To promote traditional embroidery- All the products are hand embroidered & hand crafted.
Edging On To Newer Paths
In yet another feather to our cap, we have launched ourselves on the global online selling platform Amazon, which has enabled us to widen our reach in both Indian as well as Global markets.
We have also developed another form of block printing technique called Ajarakh , to diversify our products .
SKSPL has transformed the grassroots craft activity into a full fledge commercial enterprise. SKSPL is headed by Sri HariBhai, Sri Ramesh Bhai, Sri Naran Bhai, Sri Jadav Bhai the women associated with the project.
Dr. GOVIND NARAIN SINGH, Project Coordinator, Sewa International along with his project team and guidance and support from SEWA INTERNATIONAL Trustees had visualized, planned, implemented and documented the entire initiative and effort since the beginning of the project titled “Empowering women Self Help Group to organize and manage sustainable entrepreneurship.