Basanti Rani, a handloom artist from Sonargaon Upazila of Narayanganj District in Dhaka Division, makes handmade fan from yarns for a living. She lives with her family consisting of her only son, a daughter and a son-in-law. With the crafting assistance of her family members, she runs the family with earnings that come through selling the handmade fans.
Already in financial crisis due to her limited income, Basanti and her family have fallen in extreme financial crisis when the COVID-19 started impacting her amount of craft-orders in the market.
Nimai Malakar, another artisan from Magura district is well-known for his Shola (a dried, milky-white, spongey plant known also as Indian Cork) crafts and even participated and showcased his crafts in the Zainul Fest in Dhaka University last year. Despite achieving the fame, Nimai had very little earning to feed his family and always had to depend on the occasional profit-boosting in festivities like Puja and occasions like Pahela Baishakh in the country.
As the pandemic has stopped almost all the festivities around the world, talented artisans like Nimai is afraid to continue his craftings due to financial crisis.
A country which is upholding the pride of its age-old heritage of overwhelming crafts such as Muslin and Jamdani and various other traditional craftworks - Bangladesh has always been indebted to its thousands of artisans who had been crafting their hearts out for years.
The artisans are some of the most talented and fine-skilled people in the country who are totally dependent on their artistry and craftings, as they choose not to master any other skill during their lifetime rather honing their talent in crafts and achieving further brilliance through intense dedication.
As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the global economy and almost all aspects of lives around the entire world, art and crafts have also received a huge loss in many countries. However, the loss in Bangladesh seems pretty implacable - as the artisans were already in poor economic condition and not economically prepared to deal with the crisis.
"Without the artisans of our country, we would not even have an identity in terms of heritage. They are landless, poor people who have been engaged in craft-related activities for years now, and representing many of our intangible heritage and culture of Bangladesh. So, it is imperative that we save these skilled groups of people, strengthening the local economy in return and safeguarding our cultural identity, especially during the prevalent crisis situation," stated Maheen Khan, the Founder President of Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh (FDCB).
Understanding the crisis, FDCB has taken the needed initiative to support the most vulnerable artisan communities of Bangladesh, which include the high risk, elderly, and impoverished section of the craft society. As there are thousands of artisan families looking to survive the crisis, FDCB is also seeking support from donors and patrons in this noble venture to be able to help the artisans for a worthy period of time.
Maheen Khan (c).Photo:Collected
According to Maheen Khan, one of the most acclaimed fashion designers in the country with her brand Mayasir, the initiative is currently meant for three months. The plan is to provide the artisan families in the selected category with Tk 5,000 cash assistance so that their basic necessities are met and they can survive through the temporary fallout.
Talking to UNB about the initiative, FDCB General Secretary Saibal Saha informed that the artisans have already been receiving the donations from last week of April. The selected categories include the ‘Shitol Pati Shilpo’ (cane-mat crafts), Haat Pakha Shilpo (crafts featuring handmade fan from yarns), Goyna Shilpo (ornaments and jewellery crafts), Daru Shilpo (woodmade crafts), Boyon Shilpo (handloom crafts), Shuchi Karmo Shilpo (sewing crafts) and Mrith Shilpo (clay and pottery crafts).
“Artisans like the above-mentioned Basanti and Nimai have already been facilitated with donations under the #ADOPTANARTISAN program by FDCB, and many more artisans and their families can survive the pandemic and move forward with their artistry only if the people lend a hand with donations to our fashion council's humanitarian initiative to help, protect and support the artisan communities who have been upholding the pride of Bangladesh at the forefront of the global arena for years, with their brilliant craftworks,” Saibal told UNB.
If the artisans can survive the economic havoc of the pandemic through this initiative, then their works can be showcased in future exhibitions when the pandemic will be over and life gets back to normal. get
Donors can help a family of an artisan with a donation of Tk 5,000 for a month, Tk 10,000 for 2 months and Tk 15,000 for 3 months. The donations can be made through mobile financial services including Bkash at 01707063537 (Merchant number), and Nagad at 01777468980 (Personal).
Donors can also call at 01717377264 for writing a check or further information.