As beautiful as the Kutch region of Gujarat is, equally beautiful is its embroidery and weaving. But do you know that earlier in many weaving families of Kutch, women were not allowed to do weaving? The men in the family did weaving while the women looked after the children and took care of the household chores. But a lot has changed over time. Today we are going to tell you about one such female artist of Kutch, who has given a new look to the art of her region.
This story is of Rajiben Vankar of Kotay village located 35 km from Kutch. Born in a weaver family, Rajiben is giving a completely new look to Kutch art. Although weaving and embroidery work in Kutch art is usually done with silk or wool thread, but Rajiben does the weaving work with plastic waste.
Rajiben is making a lot of products by weaving plastic waste. Their products have also been exhibited in Mumbai and Bangalore. Even though today his products are being praised everywhere, but his journey to reach here has not been easy.
learned weaving from father
Hailing from the weaving family of Kutch, Rajiben’s father was a farmer by profession, but the rest of the male members of his family used to do weaving. Rajiben’s father could hardly sustain the family through farming. In such a situation, Rajiben always wanted her to learn weaving and help her father.
They The Better India Told to, “We are six siblings. After the marriage of two elder sisters, the financial condition of the family became very bad. At that time I used to hide from my father and go to learn weaving from my cousins, but I was also married at the age of 18 and I could not help my father.
Skills came in handy in difficult situations
After marriage, Rajiben had stopped dreaming of joining weaving again. The struggle for his life was increasing. In 2008, after 12 years of marriage, her husband died of a heart attack. After which the responsibility of his three children came on Rajiben. Recalling those difficult days in her life, she says, “After the death of my husband, I was not allowed to work outside the house. There was scarcity of food and drink in the house. Then my elder sister called me to Avadhnagar and also got me a job as a laborer in a company so that I could take care of my children.
Rajiben worked as a laborer for almost two years. But it is said that if you have the skill, then at some point you will find a way to move forward. Same happened with Rajiben. In 2010, she joined an organization named ‘Khameer’ of Kukma in Avadhnagar, where weaving was done. After the devastating earthquake in Kutch in 2001, this organization has been working for the artists of the area. This organization gives special work to women weavers. Rajiben took advantage of this opportunity and started working in the organization. In the institution, Rajiben used to work in making woolen shawls. For which he used to get a salary of Rs 15000 per month.
Rajiben says, “I was given the task of teaching weaving to other women as well. Joining the yeast organization, I participated in many exhibitions and workshops. The organization had also sent me to London.”
French designer taught plastic weaving
Many designers from all over the country and abroad used to come to see and learn the art of Kutch. In 2012, a French designer Katell Gilbert visited yeast. She was impressed by Rajiben’s work and taught him the weaving of waste plastic.
Rajiben started doing plastic weaving after learning from Katell. He also participated in an exhibition in London in the year 2018 with products made from waste plastic.
After coming from London, Rajiben thought that now he should start doing his own work, so he quit working in the organization.
How did you start your own brand?
Although Rajiben had complete knowledge of Kutch art, but he did not know how to do marketing. Meanwhile, he got in touch with Nilesh Priyadarshi of Ahmedabad. Nilesh runs a business consultancy named ‘Karigar Clinic’.
Says Nilesh, “Karigar Clinic is a social enterprise wherein we help artistes to make a mark for themselves. We knew about Rajiben, their plastic weave is very good. When we came to know that she wanted to start her own business, we decided to help her.”
Since the year 2019, he has been working to deliver products made from Rajiben’s plastic waste across the country. Before the lockdown, he had also sent Rajiben to participate in the Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai. During the lockdown, he also started selling these products online.
At the same time, recently Rajiben was also to participate in an exhibition in Bangalore, in which she did business of more than one lakh rupees.
How products are made from plastic waste?
Presently 30 women are working with Rajiben. Eight women are working to bring plastic waste from different areas of Kutch. Women get Rs 20 for one kg of plastic waste. The plastic waste so collected is first washed and dried. After which it is separated on the basis of colors. Then threads are made by cutting this plastic. After which the weaving work takes place. They recycle about 75 plastic bags to make one bag.
Women are paid Rs 20 per kg for washing plastic, while women who do cutting are given Rs 150 per kg. Also, women are given 200 rupees for making one meter sheet.
At present, she is making about 20 to 25 products, the price of which ranges from 200 to 1300 rupees.
GV Ben, who works with Rajiben, says, “I used to do cotton weaving earlier. But during the lockdown, Rajiben gave me work, after which I am making plastic waste mats with the same technique. I earn four thousand rupees a month here.
Today Rajiben is helping these women with employment as well as in the management of plastic waste.
If you want to know more about Rajiben products click here.
Editing – G N Jha
Also read: For hobby, creative things were made from stones lying on the banks of the river, the same skill became a means of earning
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