India is a land of diverse culture and practices where each and every state has its own distinctive culture and sub culture which is as exquisite as it is authentic.
Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state and my home state, is famed for its varied abundance of textiles; from the finest hand woven silks of Kanjeevaram to the coarser, striped “Jamakkalam” carpets of Bhavani which are second to none on the textile front. Although, over the years, there has been a steady decline in the use and production of these exquisite textiles owing to a number of reasons – largely economical.
While the Kanjeevaram Silk sarees have found themselves comfortably seated in an international and domestic market owing to its irresistible aesthetics and intricacy, the humble Jamakkalam has been brushed aside, leaving a huge dent in its production. Moreover, these carpets are traditionally hand-woven (Dobby and traditional handloom) but they are outrageously mass produced by power looms, further hampering the livelihoods of traditional handloom weavers.
So here’s the question that led me to arrive at my MA project proposal, what happened to the traditional hand-woven Jamakkalam carpet weavers (Dobby) whose work can also be produced by a power-loom and sold for a cheaper price?
I had had the pleasure of working with dobby weavers from Chennimalai, Tamil Nadu through a CSR( Corporate Social Responsibility) project. The region is known for its course bright-stripped "Jamakkalam" rugs and bed sheet weaving that used to adorn the floors of most homes in TamilNadu until the 19th century. However, as the market for Dobby weaves reduced drastically by time, so did the weavers. According to the census in India , there have been more than 700 weavers who have committed suicide since 2008 due to starvation or inability to pay off loans.
Listening to their stories at work, made me grow extreme compassion towards them of how they have endured and strived to keep going through all these years of hardship because they all had one intention in mind ‘to not lose a tradition that was taught to them by their ancestors.’ This led me to sculpt my MA project around the subject to spread awareness about handloom weavers and to celebrate their craft.