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    The recent handloom amendment act controversy caused quite a stir, and Dastkar’s founder, Laila Tyabji was one of the frontrunners in leading a campaign opposing the rule. According to the act, powerlooms would have been able to weave garments that are currently restricted to handloom weavers, undoing everything that organisations like Dastkar have worked for — reviving traditional crafts. With the 11th edition of the Dastkar Bangalore Nature Bazaar kickstarting today, coincidentally National Handloom Day, we talk to the 66-year-old Padma Shri awardee.

    7BuyLead4The handloom amendment act.
    We teamed up with other organisations like crafts councils from various states to oppose it, as the weaving community doesn’t have a united voice that can speak for them. The powerloom industry has the money and government backing. We brought to the attention of the government, the implications of such an amendment — the loss of the rich craft traditions that sort of define the country.

    Relevance of Dastkar.
    When the bazaar started three years ago, there were no forums for rural artisans to showcase their work. We used to go pick them up at the train or bus station, arrange their food, etc. But now retail spaces have realised their value and therefore stock artisanal products. So there is a huge market for something like Dastkar, even with the popularity of flea markets.

    Highlights
    ♦ The exhibition brings together over 100 craft groups from 20 states. New crafts at the bazaar include pattachitra painted garments from West Bengal, goodri products from Rajasthan, and patola and tangalia handwoven garments from Gujarat.
    ♦ Expect a traditional Gotipua recital, a dance form from Odisha, Ruhi Sufi a contemporised sufi performance. For those looking to pick up a skill or two, there will be craft workshops in terracotta pottery, clay modelling and Madhubani painting.

    How is Dastkar making a change?
    The bazaar is just the tip of the iceberg. Dastkar also conducts workshops on entrepreneurial and leadership skills for the artisans under our wings. We give artisans some design intervention that helps them carry out their craft but create contemporary products.

    Experience working with artisans.
    In the early days, in a village in Ranthambore, we were trying to recruit artisans who were not traditionally craftsmen. In their homes, we spotted baskets, dolls, quilts and leather juttis, crudely hand-made out of recycled material. However, it was promising. After working with them for several months, we got a small consignment of products to be sold at our Dastkar shop in Delhi. Today there are over 500 women across five villages in the area, whom we work with.
    Entry `40. August 7-16. At Manpho Convention Centre, Veerannapalya. Details: 9818944096

    — Rashmi Rajagopal

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