Twining technology with traditional skill changed the lives of Assamís Mising Ladies

#1 Dec 19th, 2017, 22:19
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Assamís Mising indigenous tribal community has a rich tradition of weaving. A Mising woman, despite being engaged in myriad household activities through the day, is likely to spend some time on her loom everyday. The women make garments, mainly for everyday use, on handlooms. They also weave classy products for special occasions. Mising women weave in advance five to 10 sets of mekhela chador, a traditional womenís attire, to gift their daughters at the time of marriage.

In Assam, women feel proud to wear handloom products, especially mekhela chador, during special occasions such as weddings and festivals. Hence, the products are in great demand among people residing in Assam as well as outside the state. However, handloom weaving has not taken off as a thriving source of livelihood for various reasons. But using simple technology and adapting to market needs, Mising women have made the prospects of handloom weaving looking bright.

Weaving a viable livelihood

Mising villages are on the banks of the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries. Every year the area faces devastating floods. The recurrent floods reduce the scope for alternative livelihood. Villages such as Sisitangoni in Dhemaji district and Matmora in Lakhimpur district are affected by riverbank erosion or sand deposition, reducing any possibility of agrarian or land-based livelihoods.

The traditional throw shuttle loom is built under the traditional stilt house. Through a tedious process, the weavers produce wraps like mekhela chador and gero, stoles like gamosa, besides some utilitarian items. Traditionally, weaving in the Mising community was for their own use. But these days, Mising handloom products are much in demand.

At the handloom fair in 2014, Mising handloom products sold for Rs 1.4 crore over a period of five days. But due to low efficiency (weavers produce just two mekhela chador in a month) of traditional looms and limited product diversity, the weaversí remuneration is low. As a result, handloom weaving is not seen as a viable livelihood.

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