Pankaj Sekhsaria’s visual essay on handlooms shows you how eco-friendly the product really is. MADHUMITHA SRINIVASAN
You always knew Khadi was what Gandhi wore and that the spinning wheel’s got something to do with it. But did you know that the Khadi industry is second only to agriculture in terms of the livelihood it provides people. “In Andhra Pradesh alone, there are some 200,000 weavers involved with it. And Khadi provides employment by way of allied activities too… there’s the pre and post-production also,” says Pankaj Sekhsaria, in town recently to display his photos on the Khadi production process “Weaving Stories in Light, Shade and Colour”, at the Lalit Kala Akademi. It wasn’t just another photo exhibition because the photos were printed on handloom fabric. “A visual essay on cotton handlooms” is how he described it. And so it was. Starting with the separation of the cotton from the seed right up to the point where the fabric threads are treated to hold colour and ready for production, the photographs are all there for you to see and comprehend.
All hand made
Every step involves human effort and no machines are involved. “The tool that the woman is using to separate the cotton from the seed is actually the jaw bone of a fish, the teeth of which are well suited for the purpose,” Pankaj enlightens you with regard to a photograph. Also Khadi is, in fact, the most eco-friendly fabric. “It does not add to the carbon count, as it is produced using only manpower unlike synthetic fabrics,” he reveals. Now there’s at least one industry that does not add to the already weighty problem of global warming.
The fact that Khadi is produced using pure man-power explains its expensive price tag. “It is expensive. But when you can spend Rs. 1500 on a pair of Levis why not spend a few hundreds less on a Khadi shirt that’s safe on your skin as well,” is Pankaj’s argument. Well, there’s no countering that. He feels youngsters should be made aware of the fabric and they should start patronising it. This the first time that Pankaj has held the photography exhibition on a large, stand-alone scale. At Chennai, it was displayed alongside the Dastkar Andhra Marketing Association’s annual exhibition-cum-sale of handloom saris, dress material, dupattas, furnishings in a variety of textures and colours from across Andhra Pradesh.(Pankaj: There is a small clarification here that is important. The statistics mentioned in the article above actually are about the 'cotton handloom' industry and not particularly about 'khadi'. It is the handloom industry that is 2nd largest employer after agriculture and supports tens of thousands of families)