You can’t lock down this mother of all smiles

In those huge lines of migrants walking determinedly along the Mumbai-Nashik highway in Maharashtra, the image of this extraordinary mother sparked the imagination of the artist.

Note: The woman and her two children were spotted among the migrant labourers walking on the Mumbai-Nashik Highway. But with the crowd building up, and also moving fast, the television reporter who caught this scene was unable to speak to them. The artist, Labani Jangi, saw this image in a report by Sohit Mishra on Des Ki Baat, Ravish Kumar Ke Saath (NDTV India), on May 6, 2020. The text from Labani was told to and translated by Smita Khator.

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Land, People, Culture & Textiles

Magic Natural Dyes

The tradition of dyeing is also part of the cultural heritage of the Assamese communities. Even though there are no elaborate writings about the rich dyeing culture in Assam, the knowledge of dyeing with plants is widely spread. Being a protein fiber, eri silk absorbs the dyes very well, so the use of leaves, herbs and flowers produces great results.

What we found fascinating was that so many plants are integral to the lifestyle of the Assamese people. Turmeric is a spice that is mostly used in cooking, to give dishes a beautiful yellow color. Areca nuts are one of the most important foods in Assam because they are offered to guests when they visit. Known more commonly as “paan” in India, they are chewed along with lime and betel leaves for an energizing and euphoria-inducing effect.

Yellow Colour made from Tumeric

The leaves of the mehndi plant, or henna plant, can be harvested all year round and change shades with the seasons. The women and men of the village use henna for adornment and beautification. After the henna leaves have been crushed and ground, the resulting paste is applied to fingers, toes and hair to dye them a reddish shade. When used on silk, it becomes a camel shade. These examples of the circular use of raw materials remind us of the importance of nature and the interconnectedness it engenders, whether it be between tradition and weather, lifestyle and cooking, or garments and seasons.

Mehndi Leaves / Henna Leaves

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Famous Eri Silk of Assam – Making & Weaving

The cultivation and weaving of wild silk are rooted in the life and culture of the people of North East India, especially in the state of Assam in India. From the various types of silk of Assam, the rather unknown eri silk is particularly fascinating, as it is processed without killing the silkworm. Commonly silk cocoons are boiled with the worm inside to maintain one continuous filament, which results in a smooth and shiny fabric. Interestingly the eri silkworm spins short segments of a filament and creates a cocoon that is open at one end – enabling the moth to emerge. This peace silk is therefore a very popular fibre among vegans and Buddhists.

The humid climate of Northeast India is very favourable for the eri culture. Rural and tribal women traditionally carry out the processing, spinning and weaving as part of their daily life.

Process : For around 30 days the silkworm grows and munches on castor leaves until it reaches its final size. It then starts to spin its cocoon, which takes another 15 days. Once the moth leaves its cocoon, the silk is processed. In some areas, the silkworm is considered a delicacy and is also eaten. The empty cocoons are degummed by boiling in water, made into small cakes resembling cotton pads and then thrown against the mud houses for drying. Once the cakes are dry, they are used for spinning which is done similarly to spinning wool.

Eri Silk – Image from :Pinterest
Castor Leaves- Pics by Abhijit
Castor Leaves – Pics by Abhijit
Eri Cocoon- From where yarn is made..Pics by : Abhijit

Eri silk is funnily enough also known as the silk of the poor. The status of eri clothes in the folklife of Assam is reflected in an old Assamese proverb ‘Dair pani, erir kani’, which implies that while curd (yoghurt) cools, eri cloth warms up a person (Chakravorty et al, 2010). Nevertheless, this eri silk has excellent qualities: it is very strong, combining the elegance of silk with the comfort of cotton and warmth of wool.

The more it is worn, the softer it gets and it is a great textile to be worn all year round. Its texture, especially when woven with handspun yarn, is profoundly beautiful – always changing with the charismatic touch of imperfection. The social enterprise we are KAL is creating contemporary products with eri silk by working closely together with artisans in Assam.

IndiaAssamEri silkSilk

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