Get-hooked August 5, 2021
COVID-19 pandemic triggers textile printing initiative in Kolkata involving disabled people
The Charkha, a project in Kolkata, revives the dying art of block printing and offers a sense of direction and hope to a group of disabled people in the city. The initiative has been launched by the NGO Transcendent Knowledge Society and includes people with autism and other intellectual disabilities.
In Kolkata, the ancient art of block printing is coming back to life thanks to a group of people with disabilities.
They are part of a project called The Charkha, started by the NGO Transcendent Knowledge Society, which aims to empower disabled people from marginalized backgrounds.
The Charkha founder Amrita Roy Chowdhury says the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for reviving this ancient textile printing tradition.
The COVID-19 outbreak allowed us to conceptualize, she says. The goal of our organization is to create disabled-friendly social enterprises and a skill-building center that is truly inclusive. “Considering the increase in Covid cases, we designed a project where people could work from home with quality assured at the same time.”
Project provides hope during pandemic
The project that began production in November 2020 includes people with intellectual disabilities, including those with autism and Down syndrome, and women from economically impoverished families trained in stitching. Through online sessions, they learned vegetable printing and how to use natural dyes.
Shivangini Santra, 25, has a cognitive impairment and is one of the artisans with disabilities. Her mother Aditi, who is also the co-founder of The Charkha, says the pandemic disrupted her routine and interfered with her activities. “Since this initiative started, she is happy and loves working with the team”.
The team started experimenting with block printing two months ago, an artistic form of textile printing, in which a pattern is carved into a wooden block, which gives the form its name. An imprint is left on the fabric after the block is covered with dye and pressed onto it.
Traditional skills are not being transferred to the coming generation because of education and urbanization. The lack of opportunities prevents persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups from having a decent livelihood. We serve as a link between the last generation of subject matter experts, disabled people, and other marginalized groups. – Amrita Roy Chowdhury, Founder, The Charkha
A truly inclusive center
In April, The Charkha held a fundraising campaign was held to raise funds to set up the unit. “We created tote bags that were easy to stitch and engaged the individuals in vegetable printing instead of block printing”, says Roy Chowdhary.
Every month, the Charkha produces over 500 bags. In addition to boutiques, e-commerce sites have also contributed to their sales volume. Over 300 meters of block-printed fabric are produced every month, in addition to accessible accessories, home décor, and furnishings.
The Charkha’s slogan, “From cutout chairs to cutting edge fashion“, is appropriate for their work. According to Roy Chowdhary, all the products are designed so that part of the work can actually be done by people with intellectual disabilities.
Going ahead, there are plans to make this initiative a truly inclusive one. “We will be reaching out to the transgender community as well as acid attack survivors”, says Aditi.
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