From Rural to Urban: How Indian Textile Artists Adapted During Covid-19

This article serves as a review for a multimedia presentation by Shani & Joji at Te Papa on June 15th, 2023. Additionally, you can access supplementary details to compliment the presentation.

India’s ancient handloom art weaves a rich heritage, but its survival and growth face daunting challenges. Empower, preserve, thrive.

India boasts a rich heritage of handloom weaving that dates back to ancient times. After agriculture, handloom weaving is one of the largest economic activities, employing over 11 million weavers and allied workers. However, the industry faces numerous challenges that threaten its survival and growth.

During their presentation, Shani Pillai and Joji Jacob shed light on the artisan community’s struggles, including those in tribal, rural, and urban areas. They particularly highlighted the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the weaving, performing arts, and handicraft sectors. The disrupted supply chains, reduced demand, and loss of income and livelihood have compelled many of these artisans to either migrate or pursue alternative career paths.

Despite these difficulties, the artisans did not give up hope, many adapted to the new situation and found innovative ways to survive and thrive. They have utilised online platforms, social media, self-help groups, and various schemes to market their products, access raw materials, and get financial support. They have also improved their skills, diversified their products, and collaborated with other artisans and designers. Their resilience, creativity, and courage in the face of adversity are truly remarkable.

In a one-hour presentation, three designers were featured, discussing the struggles that artisans have faced during the pandemic. They also highlighted how some of their innovative ideas, developed during this challenging period, have helped them succeed in the post-pandemic environment.

You can hear their inspiring stories directly from the designers themselves and show your support for their work.

Himroo Revival Project

Fashion Designer: Arushi Khanna

Loomkatha, Aurangabad, India

Revival Project: https://www.loomkatha.in/himroo-revival-project 
Shop: https://www.loomkatha.in/shop
Follow: https://www.instagram.com/loomkatha/ 

Himroo is a luxurious handwoven brocade fabric made with silk and cotton yarns.
It was brought to Aurangabad by Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq when he shifted his capital from Delhi to Aurangabad in the 13th century. The name originated from the Persian word Hum-ruh which means ‘similar’. This is because Himroo is similar to the Persian “kinkhwab” fabric. It was borne out of the interaction between Persian weavers and the local weavers of nearby Paithan. Himroo designs are traditionally ornate in nature with paisleys, marigolds, vines and fruit being popular motifs.

Himroo’s popularity grew with Mughal rule and reached its pinnacle during the reign of the Nizams of Hyderabad who ruled over Aurangabad until the mid-1900s. However, post Independence, the craft has been gradually in decline and appears to have died out completely in the last 10 years. The challenge of this monumental revival project has been taken up by LoomKatha, a social enterprise working for the economic empowerment of handloom weavers.

You, too, can support the Himroo Revival Project!

By joining one of ATI Travel’s tours in India, you get to immerse yourself in the country’s vibrant culture and contribute to community development projects. A significant portion of the tour’s profits goes towards supporting initiatives like Loomkatha.

Kasota Revival Project

Fashion Designer: Sonal Kumar

Bhasha Research, Tejgad, India

Website: https://bhasharesearch.org/ 
Shop: https://bhasharesearch.org/shop 
Follow: https://www.instagram.com/bhasha.centre/ 

There is a unique weaving tradition called Kasota practised by the Adivasis of Gujarat. Kasota refers to a type of soft loin fabric woven by the Vankar community, who are skilled weavers in the tribal region of Gujarat located in Western India.

Kalbelia Craft Revival Project
The Kalbelia Craft Revival Project is the outcome of a research conducted from 2019 to 2021, and titled Voicing the Community: A Study on the De-notified and Nomadic Tribes of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat…read more

Joji at the Adivasi Academy in Tejgad with Sonal Kumar
Shani at the tribal market in Jambughoda

Creative Upcycle Projects During Covid Lockdown

Designers: Angira Shah & Vinod Shivan

Square1, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Brochure: Download brochure

SQUARE1 is a Textile Design Studio based in Ahmedabad with over 30 years of experience in creating exclusive surface designs using a combination of basic materials and innovative embellishment techniques.

Their speciality is in designing & developing exclusive and customised theme-based acoustic textile panelling and murals created with varied types & combinations of fabrics, employing innovative & meticulous production processes evolved in-house, over the years.

Their design approach is largely influenced by the nature of the material, the space and the desired ambience, without sacrificing the functionality.
Though they don’t have a signature style, their work can be recognised from the intricate patterns produced with meticulous skill sets.

They consciously try to avoid repeating their designs and are reputed for taking a fresh approach to each project, with a sensitivity and commitment to deliver a durable & sustainable product, well within the agreed budget and timelines.


Indian NewsLink article on Shani & Joji's presentation

“We launched a campaign on Instagram to book pre-orders for our weavers. The response was amazing and provided us a much-needed lifeline to tide us over [for a few months],” said Arushi Choudhary Khanna, founder of Loom Katha, who addressed the audience at the Te Papa via video link.

“The future looks shaky as people are spending conservatively on apparel and our project remains highly vulnerable,” Arushi added.

Up next was Sonal Kumar of the Adivasi Academy of Tejgadh, Gujarat, who is leading efforts to revive the Kasota loincloth weaving tradition of the tribespeople of Chhota Udepur in Gujarat….. (read full article)

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