In 2002 a friend of Carole’s put on an exhibition at the Bondi Pavilion which featured a series of photos taken in northern India highlighting the lives of some of the people in this region. Some of the funds raised during the exhibition were used to start a project in this area of India. By chance, the subject of the project was a traditional weaver named Tejsi Dhana Marwada.
In 2001 Tejsi Dhana’s home and livelihood were destroyed by an earthquake. His family had found refuge in a greener and more hospitable part of the region but were told by the authorities that they could not settle there. With money raised by Carole and her friends, a plot of land was bought to provide space for the weaver to work from which he could not be removed by the local government. Eventually a workshop was built on the land and Tejsi Dhana was able to secure housing nearby which was also close to health, other services and schools for his children. After establishing the weaving workshop more funds were raised so that a permanent water supply could be connected to the property to enable on-site dyeing to be carried out. Mostly natural dyes are used by this traditional weaver: madder, indigo, lac, sappan, etc applied to locally available fibres from sheep, goat, camel and cotton.
Tejsi Dhana is one of a very small number of traditional rug weavers still working in India. Eight generations of his family have carried out this tradition before him and he has passed on his skills to his eldest son Samat Tejsi. Tejsi Dhana’s father Dhana Haja still works with him, preparing hand spun and plied goat hair using a method that is quite likely to die with him as no one else is known to have knowledge of it.
The weavers use very basic equipment which is often handed down through the generations along with the weaving skills. A solid wooden beater (pankar) is used to help in the creation of a rug (kharad), the designs of which are recognizable as belonging to a particular area. The designs are woven from the back and are often done with two weavers working from either side to meet in the middle – cutting the time to weave a rug in half.
Along with the rugs woven with natural fibres, Tejsi Dhana and his associates have been using recycled materials to weave bags, placemats, etc in an attempt to reduce the amount of waste in India and to highlight the problem of waste disposal.
The exhibition that Carole is to open aims to tell the story of this family and show the progress that has been made by them with the help of a relatively small amount of money donated by supporters in Australia. The incredible hand crafted items that will be offered for sale during the exhibition will not only highlight the skills of these traditional craftsmen but will, they hope, help develop an ongoing market for these products. This is, of course, what is needed to keep the weaving tradition alive in India (and other areas.) Without a market for their handmade items these artisans will be forced into other types of work to survive which will result in the loss of these skills as they will no longer be passed on to younger generations.
Weave of Life opens at the Bondi Pavilion on 4 May and runs for 2 weeks.