Jamdani Village, Roadtrip to Shantipur
About 4 hours north of the city of joy, lies Shantipur, a village of jamdani weavers who migrated from Bangladesh during partition. Traditionally these weavers made dhotis, a drape worn by bengali men, but now that the men have moved to pants, mostly they weave saris for local women of bengal. A master weaver, who hosted us at his workshop, shared that all his family members (his wife and brother’s family) weave 6-8 hours a day. Sometimes it takes upto a week to make one sari and they sell it for Rs 1500 (18 USD). An average of Rs 10,000 is what a weaver makes per month (130 USD) ,which is slightly above the minimum wage. The big question, is what is the fair price for a traditional craft and where does the difference lie in skilled labour and an artisan? Our host, explains that mostly him and his wife visit mela organised by the ministry to sell to direct customers or sometimes boutiques from the city commision them pieces. He explains that for him this is the best kind of job as he can stay close to the his artisanal tradition as well as stay close to family as supposed to working in the city would have meant him being alone.
I was leased to see the community spirit in the weavers and also to see that women held an equal position in the trade. There are 50,000 weavers in shantipur who mostly work on handlooms, but the market demand has moved some to power looms as well. He says, we use natural dye only on request or when we are provided with naturally dyed yarns by the boutique. Chemical dyes are cheaper to produce, thus making it a competitive product. The community has now formed a weavers society to bring more structure to the craft village where they try to solve issues of daily running and hope they could soon achieve some support from larger organisations to buy more looms and buy more raw materials like threads. For the weavers, the biggest challenge is the money circulation, as they are only paid end of the month, but most of their cash is invested in raw materials. The weaver complains that the larger buyers also work on consignment and would not pay for raw materials in advance, which for them is a big risk. On our way back, we spotted some jute fields and trucks of jute being taken to the city, another fibre craft of Bengal. I have all these ideas and questions on how to make this model work for them, but for now I have treated myself to a naturally dyed blue and white jamdani.