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Branding Kenjakura: Reviving Handloom & Wood Apple craft

Kenjakura is located in the western part of Bankura district in West Bengal. It is home to several traditional crafts, such as handloom, bell metal craft, silver jewellery, bamboo craft, Bel Mala or beaded strings made of wood apple shells. Among these, we planned to work with two crafts, handloom and Wood Apple garlands (Bel Mala) making.

There are 21 villages within Kenjakura Gram Panchayat, of which only four have active weavers while residents of two villages are into Bel Mala making. In all, there are 878 weavers and 50 Bel Mala artisans in the area.

Handloom has been traditionally the main source of livelihood for the majority of the people in Kenjakura. But over time, the economic condition of weavers deteriorated because of several reasons, the prime one being lack of market linkage. Some women among the weavers’ families have now taken up Bel Mala making to support their families’ basic daily needs. This means that they make Bel Malas along with weaving.

Our study focused on drawing up a list of weavers and Bel Mala makers, recording their skill sets, and conducting design development training for making products that have greater market value. The initiative also aims to develop market linkage on a big scale.

The crafts persons have almost lost their faith and pride in their traditional skills in spite of having mastered them. Youths of new generations do not see much promise in these crafts and are choosing other livelihood options. The plan is to conduct a skill development workshop to improve the artisans’ skill base and empower the community by leveraging their traditional skills into a sustainable source of livelihood. The intervention also aims to develop diversified products in tune with market demand, while preserving the originality of the craft, to improve the economic condition of these artisans.

The initiative also aims to motivate the villagers to participate in these activities so that they can regain the pride in their creations, and use their traditional skills to get out of the daily wage labor scenario.

A need-based training session was held for 100 handloom artisans and 50 Bel Mala craft persons between January and April, 2018.

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