A few hours travel by train from Kolkata in West Bengal, lays the town of Phulia. This town has been renowned as a center of excellence in hand weaving since Partition.
From the late 1950s, weavers began to form cooperative societies to organise and better market their products.
Today the society consists of 213 member weavers and workers, hailing from the villages scattered around town; while it’s predominantly men who sit at the looms, the bulk of pre-and post-loom work is carried out by women.
Around 15 of the oldest members are Master Weavers - those who are able to weave more complex patterns or hard to handle yarns, who innovate with new fibres, designs and techniques, and who are able to train the younger weavers.
Looms are a mix of traditional pit looms - which are made by building the loom’s frame above a pit dug into the ground (and which are best suited to enable weavers to stay cool doing the soaring summer temperatures), and standing looms.
HANDLOOM FROM PHULIA
KANTHA FROM NANOOR
Nanoor, located between two rivers Ajay and Mayurakshi, is known for the old terracotta temples of Pala and Sena Dynasty. The nearest railway station is Bolpur (Santiniketan) from where Nanoor is 18 km away and Bolpur is well connected by train from Howrah (2.5 hours journey). One can also reach the place from Kolkata in 4 hours by car.
Nanoor block is the hub of the Kantha crafts-persons. Around 2,000 women from this block are engaged in doing Kantha stitch embroidery which has provided them an important income option. A number of women acknowledge that they have been able to overcome poverty and girls can pursue education. Young girls are very interested in learning and pursuing Kantha stitching as livelihood. The women making Kantha embroidery products at Nanoor are largely from poor Muslim families. While the older women lack literacy, there are many young girls and women who are continuing their study and pursuing Kantha as a livelihood.
Calcutta Rescue’s Fairtrade handicraft project was established to provide employment for these people, giving them the money they need to support themselves and their families and the dignity that comes with work.
India is famed for its handicrafts, and the project produces a wide-range of attractive products using a variety of traditional crafts and materials – from up-cycled silk saris to water hyacinth bags. Designers from Europe come to Kolkata to work with the team, training them in new skills and developing new products that are on trend.
These are the kind of organisations that AdhikariSeal are proud to work with. They inspire change one life at a time.