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“From the Desert to the Ramp”, a short documentary developed by Community World Service Asia and PLUM Media Tank, showcasing the transformative journey of rural artisan women becoming the hands and heart of an urban fashion brand, was screened at an event titled “The Craft Journey”at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture (IVS) in Karachi last week.

The event celebrated the successful collaboration between Community World Service Asia (CWSA), the Danish Centre for Culture and Development (CKU), the Department of Textile Design at IVS, and the Women Enterprise Groups representing artisans from Umerkot and Thatta Districts of Sindh. It was this consistent year-long collaboration that made the journey of these artisans posible and conclusive.

Students and Faculty members of IVS, representatives from Community World Service Asia, Centre for Culture and Development (CKU), the artisans of Umerkot and Thatta participated in this event. They all witnessed the exquisite products that were produced through the mix of impeccable craftsmanship and design aesthetics of the merger between artisans and students.  Prominent fashion designers and popular fashion and home brands representatives such as Khaadi, Habitt, Tarzz, Nida Azwer Atelier, Mahwish Hassan and Saniya Maskatiya, attended the event.

The primary objective of this collaborative project was to empower marginalized women artisans towards taking an active role in decision making and represent themselves with the indigenous craft tradition of their region. The project also aimed at establishing sustainable linkages between the artisan community and the urban markets to maintain a continuous chain of demand and supply meeting current market trends, while upholding the handicraft identity. It also aimed at empowering the rural artisans to take control of their own business, thereby creating a strong, mutually beneficial professional relationship.

During the span of 12 months, various collaborative design workshops in selected villages of Umerkot and at the IVS campus in Karachi were conducted. They covered extensive data collection of artisans and various embroideries practiced in the region, initial sampling, designing of a cohesive project range, procurement of raw material, execution and finishing of the first collection of over 800 apparel products.

In a span of 40 days, 679 women artisans created masterpieces of art and skill combined for distinguished Pakistani designers within demanding deadlines. They worked tirelessly to produce 1700 products that are true specimen of tradition-meets-modernity. To introduce these handcrafted masterpieces to the fashion industry and clientele, a brand Taanka  at the reputable fashion platform of Pakistan Fashion Design Counsel (PFDC) in Lahore was launched, followed by a Craft Festivals, to further promote the brand and the Sindhi folk culture and handicrafts, was held at Dolmen Mall in Karachi.

A very significant step towards providing an entrepreneurial platform to the artisans has been establishing the link with well known designers and fashion brands through meetings and exposure visits. These experienced designers have been evaluating the skill and potential of the groups of artisans and planning possibilities of future long term collaborations with them. These meetings were arranged at Indus Valley School of Arts & Architecture through their Textile department where meetings between artisans representing WEGs in Umerkot met with Rizwan Beyg, Wardha Saleem (popular and very high-end fashion designers) and the crafts brand Tali, to have one to one sessions.

This collaboration has concluded with a new beginning for the artisans to emerge as successful entrepreneurs and showcase their brilliant skill under the brand TAANKA (Visit Taanka’s social media page to see the products produced and available for sale and order @ https://www.facebook.com/TaankArt/ )

Community World Service Asia is working to enhance the livelihoods opportunities of rural artisan women by linking them with students from design institutes in Karachi.  The artisans and students are collaborating to produce innovative designs which combine traditional handicraft skills with the demands and trends of the modern urban market.  The initiative, supported by the Danish Center for Culture and Development, aims to connect these rural artisans to an urban customer base in order to develop a profitable and sustainable source of income.  The project also provides students with an exciting opportunity to share their skills and knowledge, and learn about the cultural and artistic heritage and value of these handicraft traditions.  This month, we spoke with Zehra Ilyas, a fourth year design student at the prestigious Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, to hear about her experience of the project so far.

Q: Why do you think there is a need for such a program that connects women in rural communities with young women like yourself studying design in urban centers?

A: We, as design intervention students, are taught how to sustain crafts that exist in our country and how to help their revival in a way that the livelihoods of the people who are working in rural areas can be improved. We are also benefitting from them in that these types of embroidery are not available all over the world.

Q: What do you feel that you are gaining from your involvement in the project?

A: They [the artisans] are producing a different type of embroidery that no other part of the world can produce. It’s a great thing to have that sort of craft revival in your own country so that you can get linked to your roots and you can do something different from what is already being produced. More specifically, I would like to point out that in a time when there is so much mass production, if there are hand-embroidered products, that of course creates an impact.

Q: As a designer, what have you learnt from the artisans?

A: It was a very humbling experience.  We think that we know everything, but when we meet them, we know that there is so much more to learn, not just because of the embroidery that they are doing, but the fact that they are very experienced with their embroidery. We feel like we know it and that we can just draw it, but there’s more to it. The way they are so patient with it, they are so good with their work and are extremely disciplined with it.

Q: What were the main challenges that you faced while visiting the artisans in their rural village?

A: Language was the biggest barrier. Secondly, there were time constraints as one or two hours are not enough with each artisan. That was one problem but they were so hospitable and nice. There were no other issues as such besides language and time.

Q: What do you think is the importance of empowering women – especially in a country like Pakistan where we are still struggling to provide basic rights to women?

A: Pakistan, being a third world country and the education level being so low, making women independent should be one of the biggest aims of the country. When we look at how women are oppressed it’s very important to make them independent. Teaching them how to be independent, I believe, that is a very big step. It gives them confidence to deal with people and situations. If I give them an order and ask them to produce something in a given time frame, it develops them in a different way.

Q: What other projects or brands have impacted your interested in a project that encourages collaboration between rural and urban communities?

A: Well, FnkAsia [a brand which sells women’s clothing and accessories] collaborates with a group in Chitral. It’s a good brand and the products are expensive. The thing is that the products are being sold and the artisans are being paid. That is the basic aim.

Q: What did you learn from them?

A: Patience. I am not a very patient person and even though there was a language barrier, the artisans were so calm and relaxed with us.

 

 

 

The heatwave that hit Pakistan during the last three days has led to an unprecedented increase in morbidity and deaths among the underprivileged populations of Sindh.

Since Saturday June 20th, the extreme hot spell in Karachi and other areas of Southern Pakistan have led to a death toll of 530 people which is expected to escalate further with the rise in temperature as per reports by the three leading English Daily Newspapers (Dawn, The News & Express Tribune). The Daily Express has however reported the death toll to have reached a 1000 people. Hundreds of affected populations have been hospitalized for sun-strokes and other heat related complications. Many are still awaiting emergency health assistance in the far-flung areas of interior Sind and Southern Punjab.

The temperature in Southern Pakistan has been recorded at a constant high continuum, ranging from 43 degree Celsius (in Karachi) to 49 degree Celsius in Jacobabad. As per environmental experts, the country’s heat index has risen because of poor environmental conditions since the past couple of decades. This intense heat wave is affecting the destitute populations more because of the extended electricity breakdowns they face and the unavailability of drinkable water. Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan by many people in these areas may have also contributed to the growing crisis.

Contacts:
Allan A. Calma
Deputy Director
Disaster Management Program
Email: allan.calma@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 301 5801621

Muhammad Fazal
Associate Director
Emergencies/DRR/Climate Change
Email: fazil.sardar@communitryworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 332 5586134

Palwashay Arbab
Senior Communications Officer
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 42 3586 5338

Sources:
www.dawn.com
www.pmd.gov.pk
http://arynews.tv/en/mercury-still-at-38-degrees-in-karachi
http://www.geo.tv/article-188842-Blistering-heat-devours-572-people-in-Pakistan-in-just-2-days