Known to the rest of India as a beautiful and simplistic part of the country, the North East is actually a complex region. Between territorial demands of a multiple diaspora of people, the tribes and their ethnicity, a lot of people, especially women and children are affected. A lot of cultural wisdom and traditions are also endangered, as people move away to other places with the hopes of finding income and stability.
The Bodos are an ethnic and linguistic tribal group of the Brahmaputra valley in Assam. Bodos are known as one of the finest weavers in entire North East region.The rich tradition of weaving fabrics is an inherent part of the Bodo culture. Bodo women make their own make their own traditional attire. The Bodo women are expert spinners, weavers and exceptionally skilled at handloom embroidery. They also rear Eri Silk, Muga Silk, and weave clothes out of them. Dresses and ornaments of the Bodos are the symbol of their traditional art and culture and are a source of ethnic pride for them.
In an increasingly fast fashion driven world, there are a few designers, organizations, social enterprises working with self help groups, men and women artisans /weavers who are committed to be more cause-driven than being market-driven.
One such organisation is ANTS.
With the aim to give the BODO women a sustainable livelihood and an identity, the Action North East Trust(ANT) from Assam set up a program in 2002. In 2005 the programme, was registered as a trust called Aagor Daagra Afad.
Aagor Daagra Afad, means ‘Design’ in the Bodo language, is now a well-known brand that has carved out its place in the Indian handloom sector for its tribal motifs and quality. They even showcased a collection ‘Aagor by Ants Craft’ in Lakme India Fashion Week in 2016.
All of this works towards empowering the Bodo tribe as well as support sustainable livelihoods that respect their dignity and great traditions. Aagor sells between 80 to 90 Lakh rupees of products and currently distributes around 35 Lakh Rupees of wages and salaries in the local area every year. They started off with just five weavers, the trust today has more than a hundred weavers.
They also engage other poor rural women, when needed for orders from buyers.This women weavers’ organization makes products which bring forward the rich weaving tradition of the tribal communities. The trust also works on issues of health,women’s empowerment,information,livelihoods & sensitizing people to press for their entitlements from the government and alternate income opportunities through weaving,agriculture & off farm activities. The contemporary products like garments,upholstery etc are sold under the brand name of Aagor.
The simple aim of Aagor is to create and propagate a positive Bodo identity and respect traditional loom, designs and colours. The other areas where where qualitative benefits have been observed :
Increased income and employment for women increases empowerment and decision making authority for women in the household and their communities.
Preserving Traditional Art forms
Stronger rural economies decrease pressure to migrate to cities and are more likely to contribute to preservation of traditional art forms of rural artisan communities.
Environmentally sustainable production
As a Fair trade organisation, Aagor encourages artisans to engage in environmentally friendly practices to manage and use local resources sustainably
Fair Trade movement
Aagor is a craft mark certified, fair trade organisation – artisans sign an MOU that they will abide by fair-trade norms like no child labour, minimum wages and so on. They are also a non-profit, so any money that is made goes back to the artisans.
Aagor’s business plan allows women weavers to work out of their homes, so that they can attend to their families and children as well. Livelihoods are about life interwoven with vocation – creating a sustainable source of livelihood for rural women.
The movement, as we see, has just begun.
Come be a part of it. Support Aagor and buy from the ANTS.
Aagor products are stocked at The ANTS store, in Indiranagar, Bangalore and can also be found at http://theantscraft.com/