Chance meeting between Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN), and art historian Kapila Vatsyayan set the ball rolling for Ima Keithel (Mothers’ Market) in New Delhi.
The concept of an Ima Keithel, among the first of its kind in South Asia, has been around for a long time. Ima Keithel is quite popular in Manipur, with nearly 4,000 women from across the State coming together to sell their products — from rice and bangles to dolls and flowers.
Dr. Vatsyayan asked Ms. Nepram to do her bit to ensure the women of Manipur, who weave beautifully but are still poor, remain strong. It was these words that encouraged Ms. Nepram, who used the MWGSN to galvanise over 300 women weavers and artisans — all widows and below the poverty line.
The market came to New Delhi on Monday at the India International Centre (IIC). The products on display have been made using the traditional skills combined with the design sensibilities of the organisations, including RangSutra and Ethaan, which trained the women.
Some of the products the market is trying to popularise are enaphi (a shawl wrapped around the shoulders), phanek (wrap/sarong), and leiroom (a hand-woven scarf used on ceremonial occasions). A large selection of bamboo products like lamps, cheese trays, holders and baskets is on display, as are products from Assam, Mizoram,
Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and even the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
Salomi, who hails from Manipur’s Chandel district and was demonstrating her basket-weaving skills at the market, said the designers helped them hone their skills and introduced them to new products.
Despite Manipur having skilled artisans in the handicraft sector, many women remain poor as they do not have any link to the domestic and international markets. The exhibition aims to take their products to a larger audience. The event is supported by the Control Arms Foundation of India, Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace, and the MWGSN, among others.
The market will continue till September 25 at the Gandhi King Plaza, IIC.
The concept of Ima Keithel (Mothers’ Market), among the first of its kind in South Asia, has been around for a long time.