New Delhi, 03 Oct 2015: Women survivors of Northeast India and Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh showcases beautiful handloom and handicraft products at the exhibition titled “Ima Keithel ~ A Northeast India Women Mothers Bazaar of Bamboo Craft and Weaving” that was held from 21 to 25 September at Gandhi King Plaza, India International Centre, New Delhi.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Ms Marina Walter, Deputy Country Director, United Nations Development Program, India and Ms Namita Gautam, Director, Sleepwell Foundation. The exhibition was visited by eminent personalities namely Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, Chairperson, Asia Project, India International Centre; Ms. Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, Director & Mr. Rajiv Chandran , National Information Officer of United Nations Information Centre, New India; Ex Governor of Mizoram Mr Amolak Rattan Kohli ; Ms. Laldingliani Sailo, Member of National Commission for Women; Prof Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia; Ms Tajinder Kaur of North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach; women leaders from Northeast India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The concept of “all women’s” markets is very well known in Manipur. It is popularly known as “Ima Keithel” or “Mothers Market” where over 4000 odd Manipur women congregate in capital Imphal and in smaller locations across state to sell their products. It is a very unique phenomenon hardly found in other parts of country. “We used this concept of “women’s market” to ensure women affected by conflict from across ethnic communities and region come together in an important process to nurture understanding and peace amongst communities long divided by divides which are mostly man-made”, Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India & Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network.
In this unique exhibition which was one of the first of its kinds in India, women weavers from different ethnic groups in Manipur worked together for almost a year with top notch committed team from Delhi namely E’thaan Design Studio and Rangsutra to present a range of design prototypes in weaving and bamboo. Besides the collection from Manipur, a humble showcasing of products brought by women from Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and even from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.
“We are first trained after which we make the prototype. We are given the layout for the motifs seeing which we reproduce the design,” says 38-year-old Arambam Bijaya, who has been a single parent to her 10 year-old-son after her husband abandoned her. Bijaya along with 100 other vulnerable women weavers have developed designs for a range of apparels in collaboration with the label ‘Rangsutra’ catering to the theme “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Salomi, a widow from Chandel who has lost her husband on 2003 demonstrated bamboo craft products that was made along with 20 other bamboo craft artisans belonging to different ethnic groups in Manipur. A large selection of bamboo products like lamps, cheese trays, holders and baskets is on display.
In this week long exhibition, some of the products of the market tried to popularise are enaphee (a shawl wrapped around the shoulders), phanek (wrap/sarong), and leiroom (a hand-woven scarf used on ceremonial occasions).
The exhibition objective was to take the beautiful arts and crafts of women of Manipur and Northeast to a larger audience and in long run bring peace in Northeast region and to ensure women from different ethnic groups come together to weave peace together in the said platform. The focus of the programme is the economic empowerment of underprivileged and violence affected women through skill development. The exhibition through its weaves and designs each woven by a woman survivor from Manipur, across Northeast India and beyond tells us the story that there can be no peace anywhere without the participation of women. We, the women are the threads that hold a society, community and nations together.
The exhibition was well received by the visitors and praised the efforts of the women exhibitors and organisers. The exhibition was organised by Control Arms Foundation of India with Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network along with E’thaan Design Studio and Rangsutra.