At a time when the Indian handloom sector is on a wobbly path, weavers are altering the course with innovation and entrepreneurship. “With his eco-friendly weaves, C Sekar is doing his bit,” says Pavithra Muddaya of the Vimor Handloom Basis. “After years of trial and error, he has developed 25 natural fibres, including from banana stems.” Sekar, who participated in a workshop at Vimor’s handloom pageant not too long ago, purchased a few of his finest creations for show.
Recognising that weavers in Anakaputhur, a suburb close to the Chennai airport, had been in decline, Sekar developed a approach of resuscitating the business with sustainable practices. “I am the third-generation of weavers,” he says. “My father, P Chenchiya, faced terrible hardships to continue his vocation. I could not see a thriving weaving community fading away. Anakaputhur has a history of skilled weavers making beautiful handwoven saris, dhotis, lungis, and shirt fabrics.”
Sekar is decided to maintain the legacy alive. Anakaputhur used to supply Madras-checked cloth for export to Nigeria. The weavers had been hit by the ban on import of cloth in 1966. Over the previous 15 years, the weavers have shifted fully to pure fibre, due to Sekar.
The village, which had 5,000 looms within the 1970s with every family boasting 5 looms, at this time has solely 100. If 57-year-old Sekar’s efforts take off, he believes Anakaputhur, will turn into world well-known for its 100% banana fibre saris, shirts, and cloth.
Sekar made it to the Limca E book of Information for weaving a sari utilizing 25 pure fibres. “I work with around 100 weavers and head the Anakaputhur Jute Weavers’ Association,” says Sekar whose son, S Mahendran, can be becoming a member of the enterprise. The affiliation was fashioned underneath the Ministry of Textiles, with a 90% grant to encourage weavers to create extra pure fibre cloth.
“The South India Textile Analysis Affiliation concerned us in weaving jute and cotton-blended yarn. This set me pondering of the best way to develop pure fibre yarn from different sources too. I bear in mind studying a narrative from the Ramayana in a Tamil journal. When Sita, wanted a change of garments, she pleaded with Hanuman to get her a sari woven from vaazhai naaru (banana fibre). That obtained me pondering.”
Collaborating with NIFT college students in design intervention and color mixture has enhanced the attain of his merchandise. The weavers take 4 to 5 days to finish a sari. “I have used fibres of banana, bamboo, aloe vera, pineapple, crown flower, khas khas, silk, wool, hemp, jute, cecil and gongura amongst others. I use more of banana fibres as the stems are available in plenty, although manual extraction of fibres from the stems is labour-intensive and time consuming.”
Pure dyes extracted from varied pure merchandise are used. Turmeric, espresso powder, tea, indigo, beetroot, tulsi and cow dung are used. “We use 1,000 kilograms of fibre in a year. We make 250 saris, 300 metres of yardage and 400 handicrafts with natural material in a month. With machinery this can be doubled. The government is prepared to give us grants for machinery, but where is the space to house them?” asks Sekar, who now sells by designers, authorities handicrafts, handloom board and social media.