A half-English photographer, a Spanish textile designer, an Indian supermodel and his 70-year-old Taijee (aunt) bundle into an SUV at 5am on 14 September 2019 in a centuries old town by the foothills of the Himalayas. Their mission: capture the real, untold stories of some of India’s rural artisans in pictures and words.
Eight hours up the winding roads they make their final stop. The whirring of spinning machines is dulled by the chatter of village women; they have arrived. Masthura is a scenic Himalayan village where women, both young and old, sit together in their courtyards spinning silk cocoons. Some days they spin for two hours and other summer days a little longer, as the bitter winters force them to stay indoors. But they are content with the pace of life and the work they have, even if it is only a few hours a day.
These spinners, originally farmers, are a part of Dev Bhumi, a Himalayan organisation where thousands of villagers are co-producers, choosing which activity they wish to take on for their livelihood – from silk farming to spice making. At Masthura, the female energy is palpable. Young children run around playing tag, while mothers sit in circles working on the cocoons, discussing the evening’s menu.
It is just one of the tiny interconnected villages where the Dev Bhumi artisans live and work and where the JULAHAS products are being created. Next stop a few kilometres away is the dyeing unit and a small distance from there is the weaving centre, where the in-demand, multifunctional wool Capes are handcrafted.
This is Taijee’s third visit to Dev Bhumi and as soon as she gets out of the car, she is surrounded by familiar faces, some hugging her and other angrily inquiring why she hasn’t visited them sooner. “We are so happy to have work again!” they exclaim with joy as they show the team how they weave the Cape. Just a few months ago, these artisans had few orders to weave. They would arrive at the looms and go back disheartened.
These weavers, again mostly women, rely on their income to sustain their families. In some cases, they are single mothers who are also paying for the education of their children, while inspiring other women to take on the profession of weaving. The word has spread that weaving makes them self-reliant and gives them a steady income, and many young women are eager to try their hand.
Gary, the half-English photographer, gets quizzical stares as he clicks away. Someone wants to know how did he get his hair to look that way. “Mumbai mein aisa hi hota hai,” (this is how it is in Mumbai), he replies in Hindi.
The mood is upbeat and the weaving at Dev Bhumi is in full swing. These are the first orders they are crafting for JULAHAS and they want to make sure it’s perfect. And once they are done, the Cape will start its journey from their village to your wardrobe.
Don’t forget to stay tuned for the different stories, and in turn for our various products.
New colours coming soon, plus an all-black Cape!
Read about it in our next blog