The Meghwal Marwada community practices weaving art in Kutch, a center of traditional craftsmanship in India. These weavers are known as “Vankars”. They originally migrated to Kutch centuries ago with the Rabaris, a pastoralist ethnic group from Rajasthan. They migrated together as the Rabaris were the main patrons of the Vankars’ woven textiles. For many centuries a symbiotic relationship existed between both communities–Rabari women would spin yarn from wool and give it to the weavers to craft shawls for their men and women, as well as clothing for other neighboring communities. These relationships were disrupted by machine-made textiles, which arrived in the region in the 1950s.
In order to create a new concept in weaving, Dinesh Vishram Siju imagined bedspreads inspired by the shoulder wraps of his ancestors. Because these were created on narrow looms, he combines narrow textiles to create his unique pieces. The fabrics, made of local cotton and Tasser silk, are woven on a pit loom, with family members assisting in warping. Dinesh colors the yarns with natural dyes he makes from local acacia and indigo. The pieces are then joined together with embroidery thread and tassels and decorations added by Rabari women from the community. “The combination of different yarns, natural dyes and this technique gives us a unique advantage as these cannot be easily replicated on power looms on which many of our designs are being copied and sold at cheaper rates, threatening the survival of handlooms in our country,” points out Dinesh.
Dinesh’s father was a pioneer in redefining the craft of weaving and handed down his knowledge of the craft. Urging his sons to support the community through the purchase of locally made supplies, such as yarn, versus cheaper, machine-made standards, they have grown a business based on community enterprise, where everyone benefits. For his work, Dinesh has been awarded a World Crafts Council Award of Excellence.