The traditional craft of bamboo which was a major source of income for tribal artisans during the harvesting season is facing a tough time in every district. As per Uthhan's research on Bamboo, artisan families are grappling with multiple challenges, including a shortage of raw material, lack of an institutionalized marketing mechanism and a deluge of plastic household items in the market.. Lingaraju is a bamboo artisan who hails from Mysore ,aged , 55 years. He came to Bangalore in search of livelihood about 35 years ago. Lingaraju is blessed 3 kids. He had a tough time supporting his family. Being a bamboo artisan, he thought there would be much demand for wood. But recently he started getting less or no orders as people are looking for instant products. Apart from supporting his family. he has to support his worker. He has to pay daily Rs. 100 for food and travel expenses, where in he earns 4k to 5k in a month. He is the last person from his family to work as an artisan, as since s his son doesn't want to continue this profession. Even workers are not ready to work for him Without payments,. he works more than 10 hours in his workstation along with his wife to meet his monthly expenses. His daughters are working as a tailor. Son is working as a driver.
A few decades ago, Bamboo utility products such as baskets, mats, fish traps, cradle, and various household items were in huge demand among the farming community. Bamboo baskets found takers during the harvest season of crops like coffee, pepper, and paddy in the hill region.
When we asked about the process, he told that the bamboo is procured from Devarapalle. It takes about three days to convert a tall bamboo stick into a beautifully hand-crafted basket. Each slice is scrapped and smoothened after slicing off thin long layers. It is then woven into one of the many ranges of products. Baskets of different shapes and sizes are popular and they create a range of large laundry baskets called ‘maela butta’. The smaller are used for fruit and vegetable vendors. The ‘chaata’ for separating rice from the husk is another popular product. Besides the standard products, they also take orders for customization. Colours are also applied to the products depending on the requirements. Once the bamboo strip is ready, 5 to 6 baskets can be woven in a day.
Uthhan visited his workplace and spoke with Lingaraju regarding the issues he is facing. Uthhan helped him by providing sales and market ideas after knowing the problems. Now he is very happy for working with us.
The roads were narrow with alluring coffee plantations on either side. The place was Trikkaipetta. It is a paradise with greenery all around with the true smell of soil. The artisans of Trikkaipetta create marvels out of bamboo from generations. These can be used as show case items, key chains, flower vases and so on. Raju PK and Gopalan headed the crafts production.
The leg of Gopalan is paralyzed and with this disability he was able to produce artifacts in a shorter period. The entire family was happy seeing our team in the hope that something exemplary will occur in their life. The roof of the house has so many holes, which is like bullets pierced the roof during a gun battle. They have explained about the process of modeling with an exuberant zeal. Their happiness lies on making these bamboo products. They have created many an unpolished designs because of their lack of money to buy polish. They are creating bamboo products from ages, with the skill inherited from their ancestors. But the agony in their eyes can be felt easily. They served us with black coffee and biscuits. The black coffee was sublime and oozing with typical Wayanad flavor. We shared some of the customized bamboo craft designs with them. We encouraged them by elucidating about the reach and demand of bamboo products in the market. We embolden them that in UTHHAN, artisans decide the product price and not by us. Moreover they are still clinging on to their tradition after all these setbacks.
Raju MC makes show crafts out of bamboo. The problem is same; there is no money to complete the polishing. He is doing daily labour to feed his family. When I have explained about our initiative there was a tint of hope for him. His wife and children were looking at us without any emotions. We can make out that they have suffered enough in their life because of poverty. The dilapidated house, with plastic covers serving the purpose of windows was a heart-break to watch.
She is proud of him, so are we. We were unsure about the craft's durability, since the bondage of joints can be vulnerable. The strong joints and strength of the products brush aside all our suspicions. The products can be easily shipped without any damage. We have purchased some products, after enrolling them to UTHHAN. He apprised us in sign language that he can produce these crafts in bulk, if we give orders. The money earned out of these products can fulfill their basic needs. There was a ray of optimism in his gaze, which we want to nurture to save this dying tradition.
The artisans of DARADA WARD NO -7 under BALESWAR are struggling to keep the age-old art of crafting decorative items with bamboo alive. Faced with several challenges, including stiff competition from plastic and fiber products, lack of marketing initiatives and soaring prices of bamboo, these artisans are deprived of a decent living.
Artisans claimed that the decorative bamboo items like pachiya, dala (basket), binchana (hand fan) and kula (winnowing fan), which once fetched them a good price, have now lost their charm to plastic and fibre products. Once upon a time, these products were popular in the global markets also. Around 300 families in Bag Sahi, Senapti Sahi, Baitha Sahi and Kuanra Sahi of the Ward eke out their living by making these handicrafts.
“What is lacking is a proper platform where the families can showcase their skills. With no Government assistance, we are struggling to keep this art alive,” the artisans of the Ward said. we asked some photos of them and their working place. They sent these burled photos after that we learned that they don't have a phone also. They took someone's phone to take this photo The situation has turned worse as the price of bamboo has increased. However, the handicrafts are still being sold at lower prices. “ We sell Kula for `25 to `30, pachiya for ` 20, dala for ` 15 and binchana for `12. The prices are for single pieces,” Bag added.
“How can we afford to make these handicrafts at a time when prices of necessary commodities are increasing day-by-day. But, our income remains the same,” said another artisan, SHANTILATA MANDALA(50). Our team listened to their problems. We understood that they are not getting proper value for their work. They are not aided by any organization. They lack the knowledge of creating innovative designs. Nowadays the market demand is for innovative designs. So UTHHAN has decided to give designs and raw materials to them. Our aim is to keep the tradition alive.