By Hand From The Heart is a biannual Makers Market held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Dr.Lalitha Regi and a few member artisans share with us the story of Porgai Artisans Association, based in Tamil Nadu. Porgai is a society of 60 lambadi women artisans . The Lambadis were a nomadic tribe originally from north western india,.somewhere in the present Gujarat /Rajastan border.They migrated down with the Mughal army and settled in Maharashtra , Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. ‘Sittilingi’ valley is the 2 nd southernmost settlement of Lambadi community in India.
Tell us a bit about the organisation.
Tribal health initiative was started in 1993 as a unique model for health. It acts as a facilitator for health of the tribals of sittilingi valley of dharmapuri district of tamil nadu. Discovering the dying, age old tradition of Lambadi embroidery in 2 villages in the valley, gave way to the birth of porgai,which revived the traditional craft along with empowering the Lambadi women.
Porgai artisans association is a society of 60 lambadi women artisans. ‘Porgai’ mean ‘pride’ in lambadi dialect. The word emphasises the true worth of the craft of intricate embroidery, carried through the generations in the tribe.
The Lambadis were a nomadic tribe originally from north western india,.somewhere in the present Gujarat /Rajastan border.They migrated down with the mughal army and settled in Maharashtra , Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. ‘Sittilingi’ valley is the 2 nd southernmost settlement of Lambadi community in the country. The ancestors of the artisans settled here and started doing agriculture. Over the years, women stopped wearing the traditional dress with its exquisite embroidery-, with that the craft also died down.In 2006,with the facilitation of tribal health initiative, Neela and gammi, two women who had learnt the craft in their childhood but were not practicing it,trained few other younger women and revived the craft.That was the beginning of Porgai.
The work at Porgai, share with us.
According to Dr.Lalitha Regi who had been with Porgai since its birth in 2006-‘By giving you our products we are sharing our pride with you. We take pride in the fact that we are preserving the mesmeric magic of Lambadi embroidery forever on fabric.We take pride in the fact that the artisan is central to porgai and the most important link in the production process.In porgai, the artisan is respected greatly and gets fair wages. We make sure that she is not left out and forgotten in the race to survive in the market.
We take pride in the truth that we value human effort over repetitive machine embroidery, which is much faster but lacks soul.We take pride in the fact that we add dignity to many Lambadi households –by providing alternate income source in the village itself and prevent migration.
What have been your challenges?
Neela, who had been instrumental in reviving the languishing craft,says that finding a market which appreciates the craft and the fairness which is our strength is still a challenge. We need to widen our market so that all the artisans have round the year work.
What changes have Porgai made to your life?
Ramani, (one of the young and talented artisans of the society) says that the happiness she gets after seeing her own creation is very sastisfying.She says that porgai has made her economically independent. She is able to get a regular income from this, which she can use for children’s education,health care expenses and the needs which she thinks is important for the household.
Describe your work place.
Ramani, “We all work from home. When we need to do some samples, or have a training or workshop,then we go to the craft centre .The process before and after embroidery are being done at the centre..
Tell us about about Porgai’s showcase at the By Hand From The Heart exhibition in Chennai.
A new range of products made with millets (which are an integral part of the farming and food of the valley ) as motifs.This include; Stoles, Dupettas, Sarees, Wall hanging. We also have set of bed spread,cushion cover and pillowcover. Colourful jewellery, which is a replica of traditional Lambadi jewellery made with fabric beads,wooden beads and thread instead of silver. Cushion covers and wall hanging with traditional motifs. Garments in cotton,organic cotton and silk with embroidery.
Chennai has been are our best market so far.People of Chennai have appreciated the craft and our products. We look forward to selling in Chennai and enjoy the encouragement and support we get here. We are grateful to the loyal customers here, who are willing to visualise the human hands, minds and the creativity behind the embroidery and respect the time and effort the artisans took in creating each piece.
Porgai will be at the By Hand From The Heart: MAKERS MARKET – 18th Edition
Friday – Saturday, 5th – 6th August, 2016
10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m
Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
132, T.T.K Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600018, Tamil Nadu. India