Project # 2 - NATIVE INDIAN COTTON
We have sourced our towels from Khamir - a co-operative in Western Gujarat in the Kachh region just outside Bhuj. They are a co-operative who formed after the huge earthquake in 2011 which caused devastation to many villages and communities. Khamir wanted to support these communities whilst encouraging traditional craft and ecology, and to help preserve their heritage.
As one of their projects, Khamir work with 40 farmers growing native cotton. This cotton is called Kala cotton and people stopped growing it because of the short staple (which is not so desirable for industrial machines) but Khamir provided a market for these farmers as they can use it on traditional looms. Gujarat is an extremely dry state and this cotton can grow in exceptionally arid conditions requiring little to no water. It is quite remarkable as very little else can grow there in these conditions. When we visited in January we were amazed at how the cotton was growing out of this exceptionally dry and cracked ground. The farmer was describing to us how prone the area was to droughts and how they often don't get water for 4 days at a time, in their homes.
Once harvested the cotton is ginned and spun and then naturally dyed at the resource centre. There are huge vats of indigo in the grounds of the centre as well as many more magical colours created by nature. The hanks are then taken to the 40 weavers, who wind the cones on a winding device which stretches the whole length of the room in one of the houses we visited and the lady did it so smoothly - it was beautiful to watch. Whilst there we also went and met lots of the weavers and went round with the team dropping off hanks for them to use for weaving and picking up finished fabric. All the weavers had their looms at home out in their yards or on the rooftops and it was a real family affair. One of the weavers was explaining to us that his son use to be a fruit seller and at the age of 18 decided he would rather be a weaver like his father and so now they weave side by side in their courtyard. He would also be singing along whilst weaving which was lovely to see. A lot of the weavers are also in a traditional music band together. We were lucky enough to see them perform. Khamir also support the weavers whilst they are learning and will continue to buy the fabric even if there are imperfections.
Whilst there, we attended a conference on indigenous seeds & cotton. We felt very privileged to be a part of it and it was amazing to hear about all the indigenous seeds and varieties and their resilience. One of the biggest challenges that came out of this conference is getting to a stage where the farmers and weavers can afford to be wearing and using their own produce...