The ongoing Dastkar South Asian Bazaar here - for the first timer at least - provides a kaleidoscopic view of the cultural richness and diversity of crafts from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and India - with the focus on this country. The bazaar is on till Sept 1. It's a different matter that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were once one nation.
There are around 65-exhibitors who specialise in their native skills and have been experimenting with various techniques to up the ante of their products.
Delhi-based Remakumar, a textile designer and consultant, has incorporated various techniques to merge weaves and embroideries from different states offering an ethnic fashion treat.
For instance, indigenous weaves from Uttarakhand have been used on cotton yarn instead of wool, a thoughtful step to provide all-year employment to the craftsmen.
"Usually you have this weave in wool. I have used cotton instead and now the craftsmen can work all through the year," Remakumar told IANS while showing a fine cotton dupatta with detailed handwork.
"Indian craftsmanship is finest and has evolved with time. This has fallen into the line with fashion sensibilities and is no more considered boring. Adapting right techniques, and keeping basic sensibilities intact has put it into fashion forefront," she added.
For one of her saris, she used chanderi silk from Madhya Pradesh and patti work from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh - a colourful fusion of the two.
Ajrakhpur in Bhuj, Gujarat is home to the art of Ajrakh - a block printing technique that uses colours derived from nature such as indigo, henna, turmeric, iron, pomegranate and mud.
Also representing this traditional art at the mela is Khatri Abdulrauf Abdulrazak who pointed out the print has its roots in the Sindh region, which is now in Pakistan, but the craftsmen on this side of the border had gained an edge by widely adapting new techniques.
Caption: Pottery at display at South Asian Bazaar
"We are 20 years ahead of them in this craft," he replied when asked why the basic print as seen in Pakistan - a combination of black over red - was missing from the display.
Mostly women artisans comprise the workforce in this handicrafts group. But Abdulrauf pointed out the process involved in producing the finest Ajrak prints needs muscle power and not delicate hands.
"We have to beat the cloth, wash this heavy cotton, put it under the sun and then carry it. There is more of strength required unlike in other crafts," he said.
Other than this, hand-painted Madhubani prints from Bihar, Kutch work from Gujarat, baskets made of waterreeds from Manipur and malkha cotton and silk from Andhra Pradesh give a glimpse into traditional handicrafts of these cities.
From the neighbouring countries - basketry and bronze casting from Bhutan, Sindhi and Baluchi embroidered products from Pakistan along with marble products and jamdaani saris from Bangladesh are being exhibited.
Positioning itself as the luxury brand of Bangladesh is Living Blue that offers shawls and quilts made with utmost care.
The products on display are in the hues of white and blue. Referring to his brand as a social business, Mishael Aziz Ahmad, its manager says they have a close knit team of 700 farmers and a workforce of 300 people who contribute in the making of the products.
"Indigo is the best natural dye that grows in Bangladesh. We cultivate it and then it goes through various processes before we get the finest dye," Ahmad told IANS.
"The product is entirely hand-stitched," he said adding the most difficult skill in stitching the helm.
Ahmad felt Bangladesh has the potential in promoting its textile expertise but lack of technological advancements puts them on the backfoot.
"Buyers want something different. To be in the game one has to innovate and evolve," he concluded.
For the record, what was on display from Bhutan was their traditional costumes, lemongrass spray and bronze miniatures while language difficulties came in the way of understanding what was being displayed from Afghanistan.
The organisers claimed that Nepal was also represented but there was nothing overtly Nepali on view.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at email@example.com
--IANS (Posted on 29-08-2013)