Tradition and Transition

Advocacy, Policy, Sustainability, Sustainable Devt.

Tradition and Transition: A Crafted Solution to Development

Tyabji, Laila

All over India women sew and embroider. Their stitches tell not only their own stories, but those of their cultures and lives. Through those stitches women reach out to the rest of the world, finding markets and generating incomes for themselves and their families. As Ramba ben, a mirrorwork embroiderer from Banaskantha once said to me, "The lives of my family hang by the thread I embroider." Some years ago, in the mid 80s, I was doing a design workshop with a group of patchwork appliqué women in a re-settlement colony outside Ahmedabad in Gujarat. Three days into the workshop a communal riot broke out in Ahmedabad city. Arson and looting turned into mob warfare and killing and the trouble spread into the slum suburbs. The patchwork women were Muslim; most of their husbands and fathers worked in the city. They drove bicycle rickshaws, sold vegetables and groceries on small handcarts, or were unskilled labour in factories. Now they were trapped. Those who ventured into the city were drawn into the violence; those who stayed at home forfeited their daily income. Every day people were brought into the community centre, where we sat matching colours and cutting patterns, burnt, wounded, maimed. A child's eyes had been gouged out; the brother of one of the women had been burnt alive in his cycle rickshaw. It seemed stupid and callous to the point of crazy hubris to be sitting there making pretty pa...
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