Heritage Crafts Foundation pledges to secure a better future for Bangladeshi heritage crafts and artisans
The machinized neoliberal punch of the global economy has already swept away parts of our emblematic heritage, while keeping many of the rest on the hit list. Muslin is already gone and power looms have taken over the handlooms of the once revered weavers, putting the incomparable weavers’ craft in danger of extinction. To preserve the opulent heritage crafts of Bangladesh, Tootli Rahman, the show-runner for the International Weavers' Festival (IWF), along with a bunch of heritage and craft enthusiasts, has recently launched the Heritage Crafts Foundation.
“We have successfully organized two weavers' festivals, which has inspired me to scale up my dream into something long-term,” Tootli Rahman said during the inaugural meeting of the foundation held in Dhaka’s Gulshan on May 13. “Having established myself as a local fashion designer working with small scale weavers, I realized that it’s high time we do something tangible and useful for the artisans in my country at large,” she continued.
“We have a rich heritage. Be it Dhakai jamdani, Rajshahi silk, or Banarasi, these garments are superior in both its artistic attributes and quality. However, the introduction of the machinized industry has taken a toll on the market of the weavers’ products, making the craft a dying art form. And we cannot just sit here doing nothing for them.”
Tootli Rahman, who is known as an avid handloom produced garments promoter, is spearheading the foundation which seeks to revamp the declining art of weaving through developing the skills of the artisans and providing them a platform to take their products directly to a wider market without any middleman.
She emphasized on the increasing need to provide enough opportunities for the weavers to survive the onslaught of imported items that threaten the very existence of our precious and talented craftsmen, and also very low salary make them turn towards power loom and other jobs.
“When a private corporation orders the artisans to make a sari with a cost of roughly around Tk2000, the artisans who makes these saris with exquisite design and top-notch quality, get around Tk15,000 in return, while the sari sells for nearly Tk100,000,” Rahman said, addressing the disparity in the pay of the weavers. Thanking her enthusiastic collaborators who have made the foundation into a reality with their fervent assistance, she pledged that the foundation will make sure that the artisans get the bigger share of the pie by connecting them directly to the consumers through exhibitions and if possible, permanent outlets.
US ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat, who was also present at the inaugural meeting of the foundation, lauded the initiatives undertaken by the foundation, saying, “It breaks my heart to see how so little is known about Bangladesh. The launching of the first ever satellite owned by Bangladesh, which involves both of our countries, is a shining example of how much Bangladesh has come and it is really amazing to see. But so much of your richness really resides in the old traditions that you have. It is really great to see that the Heritage Craft Foundation has been established to preserve them.”
Stating the importance of preserving the heritage, the ambassador concluded with a note of hope. “I think its consequential that so many of these arts are created by women and I would look up to the day when these intricately delicate artefacts like Jamdani, Banarasi or Khadi make their way to the shopping malls in the USA.”
The main intention of the foundation is to promote the Bangladeshi craft and culture both within and beyond the boundary of Bangladesh. The formation of the Bangladesh Heritage Craft Foundation, promises to be a consortium of shared ideas from other countries too, where people will learn about the diverse histories of each other’s craft heritage. It will be a platform to showcase the vast expertise of worldwide artisans.