Kerala Women's Traditional Hand-Woven Screw Pine Craft on Its Way to Revival
The dying art is eying revival with more women participation in the traditional hand-woven craft.
Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
The heritage town of Kodungallur in Kerala is a major hub of screw pine and water hyacinth fibre weaving in India. Many of the rural residents of the ancient, coastal village of Kottapuram – a village in the town of Kodungallur – are screw pine fibre craft artisans.
This is primarily because of the abundant growth and availability of screw pine trees and water hyacinth plants in this remote, coastal land. Screw pine weaving especially has been undertaken by the people of Kottapuram for a very long time and, interestingly, these natural fibre weaving artisans are mostly or entirely women.
“Through generations, screw pine fiber weaving has been our primary source of income. Earlier, times were difficult. Our lives were mostly dependent on screw pine weaving. We had to slice and collect them. Later, the leaves are to be circled and then dried. Only then are mats woven using them. These mats are later taken to the market and sold. We had to travel long distances to collect the screw pine leaves then. From there, we had to slice the leaves and circle them up. We used to start our journey by 8 in the morning and return only by 5 in the evening.”Baby Sreedharan, Senior Weaving Artisan
The craft that was struggling to survive is looking forward to better days with more and more new generation women participating in honing the skills that are being passed on by their senior pros.
Availability of screw pine leaves in Kodungallur has also acted as a catalyst for rejuvenation of the art.
“There are people cultivating the palms. These cultivators outsource the slicing and collection of the leaves. Later the leaves are transformed to fibre products like mats. Fibre weaving is a traditional handicraft that can be passed on through generations. In the olden days, we used to get a modest income to meet our basic needs at least. That is why screw pine palms and fibre weaving are sustained even to this day.”Vrinda Sambasivan, Weaving Artisan
“Earlier, we used to get a meagre income. Rs 25 or 40 per mat is what we used to get then. Today, we get around Rs 300 per mat. We are ready to train anyone who comes forward.”Valsala Prasad Weaving Artisan
Over the years, Kottapuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS), an NGO under the Diocese of Kottapuram, has been aiding and organising the weaving community trying to bring fire craft artisans into the mainstream.
“Today, the artisans are able to make sustainable products using screw pine fiber with much expertise and skill. Along with it, after intense efforts, KIDS was able to give screw pine weaving the title of GI (Geographical Indications) Craft. With such efforts, KIDS is striving hard to bring the artisans of Kottapuram to the forefront.”Father Paul Thomas, Director, KIDS
Surviving the 2018 Kerala floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the handmade crafts by Kerala’s women have made it to the 40th edition of India International Trade Fair, in Delhi.
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