By CK Nayak
Many crafts melas are organised every year in the national capital like all other cities and metropolises during national and international events and even otherwise. However, the Indian Crafts Bazaar at Bharta Mandap in Pragati Maidan, venue of the recently concluded G20 meeting was one of its kind. Arts and crafts of all states and union territories including Meghalaya showcased their unique products with national award-winning artists and craftsmen displaying their unique skilful work. Besides the states and UTs central agencies like the Khadi Village and Industries Commission, TRIFED, and Saras Aajeevika also took part. Thousands of delegates, organisers and the foreign guests of the grand meeting thronged the bazaar whenever they used to get a chance.
In the large bazaar Meghalaya had a pavilion put up by Meghalayan Age, the famous store of arts and crafts which has a permanent display in Delhi’s biggest upmarket Connaught Place. This pavilion for the Crafts Bazaar focussed on bringing unique indigenous skills rooted in sustainability, women led initiatives and spirited women entrepreneurs. Along with the Tourism Department and Meghalayan Age and Department of State Tourism and Textiles. The highlights of the pavilion were the Ryndia, Jaintia Black Clay Pottery, Lakadong Turmeric and items crafted from Bamboo and Cane.
Meghalaya is home to some of the finest bamboo and cane varieties and master craftsmen whose traditional knowledge and skill have been passed on through generations. Owing to its ease of use and sustainability, bamboo and cane occupy an important place in the economy of the state, next only to agriculture. Ryndia (Eri Silk) is also known as the Peace Silk or Ahimsa Silk since it uses a ‘non-violent’ way of extracting silk from the cocoons of the silkworm without harming or killing them.
The whole process from extraction to weaving is completely done in the state by women weavers. The Jaintia Black clay Pottery uses the black unique clay found in Sung Valley, which is completely handcrafted by women potters using traditional methods without the use of a potter’s wheel. This lends to the finished product’s distinct look and feel. Lakadong Turmeric is one of the most well-known products from Meghalaya and this too is mostly cultivated and processed by women farmers which was on display.
These age-old traditions in Meghalaya are deeply rooted to the land and the belief that in order to progress one needs to do so in tandem with nature and the environment. The few Sustainable Development Goals that were especially highlighted through the state’s products were Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Reduced Inequalities and Sustainable Cities and Communities which resonated very well with the international delegates and members of the media.
But the proud moment for the state came when Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi not only stopped at the store but also interacted with the artisans. He conversed with Rida Gatphoh who is the chief curator of Meghalayan Age – The Store and the Founder of DAKTI – a Social Enterprise based in Shillong. Being a women entrepreneur herself and having received the National Entrepreneurship Award (NEA) 2019 from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), she informed the Prime Minister regarding the progress made by Meghalaya in the sphere of Women Empowerment, Gender equality and Sustainability.
“The Prime Minister was impressed to see that Meghalaya is working towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals through encouraging timeworn methods of craft production that too empowering tribal women,” Rida Gatphoh told The Shillong Times after the visit. “It was a wonderful Sunday surprise for all of us,” she exclaimed in joy.
This works with nature instead of against it, by uplifting women entrepreneurs throughout the state, and showcasing the rich culture of the state at an international platform. Modi also made time to visit the ‘Focus North East’ stall, where he observed and appreciated the handicrafts from the eight North Eastern states. The stall was established to showcase exceptional handicraft and handloom items from the region.