signature touch: A Jharcraft store in Ranchi
Designer twist to age-old leaf plates?
Jharcraft, now trying to uplift Santhal tribes and link them to the mainstream with training programmes in spinning, reeling and weaving, points to the commercial success of leaf plates made by tribals with inputs from National Institute of Design (NID) as the one venture that started it all.
“We planned and executed this unique enterprise at Hazaribagh Urban Haat where it was a sell-out. We had rolled this pilot project a couple of months ago. Tribals, who still collect forest produce or hunt small animals, had shown enormous interest. And the way they picked up creative inputs from the NID designer we had taken along, was amazing,” beamed Dhirendra Kumar, Jharcraft managing director.
Jharcraft is holding an intensive training programme at Bagjogra village of Churchu block and Kadri village in Charhi block, both in Hazaribagh district. Churchu and Charchi are small blocks with tribal-dominated populations of 3,000 and 5,000, respectively.
For villagers of Bagjora and Kadri, who take immense pride in their forest produce, Jharcraft’s intervention — not to say designer inputs — was a revelation. They suddenly saw their age-old skills with new eyes.
“They realised that maybe they could also craft items that look good, are useful and will fetch them money,” said . “It is a paradigm shift but without disturbing their indigenous pattern of life.”
Now, around 3,000 Santhal tribals are learning to reel and spin silk threads from the cocoons at Bagjogra.
“They have been collecting cocoons from forests. So, the connect is there. We are not shifting them. But we are teaching them to add value to their forest produce.”
In Kadri, many carry coal to nearby hotels, which is backbreaking work and pays a pittance. “We started training them to weave. They showed enormous interest in learning something new as they were fed up of carrying coal,” Kumar said.
Once the training — between 30 and 60 days — is over, these artisans will be involved in designing both handicraft and handloom products, which will be sold in the rural marts opened by Jharcraft in Hazaribagh, Kharsawan and Lapung.