14 January 2019
We are visiting the village of the ladies who make Moti Bharat (bead work).
The women, whose ages seem to range from late teens to seventies, are seated on the floor of the verandah surrounded by their wares. Moti Bharat craft is the art of making household decorative items and and jewellery from tiny seed beads woven together to make either a flat fabric or to cover items like jars, gourds or constructed forms.
I have visited these ladies on a previous tour in 2017 and it is a pleasure to meet them again and introduce my guests to the fine work they produce.
On the last tour, I purchased a rather splendid toran (window or door decoration) from Naina who proudly displayed it for the camera.
On the most recent tour in January 2109, after perusing all the glittering wares spread before us, my eyes focused on another toran, which to me looked to be older than the rest of the work there. In my stilted hindi, I asked if this piece was old. My assessment was confirmed, and on enquiring after the maker, Benba was introduced to me. A woman about my age (late 60s), she told me that this was a piece she made for her wedding dowry about 50 years ago. Of course I bought it, as I was very pleased to give a new home to a genuine dowry piece.
What had alerted me to the age of the piece was the uneven sizes of the beads. New items are made with very regularly sized beads, which I’m guessing would make it a whole lot easier to weave the intricate patterns. In the detail images of Benba’s toran below, the different sizes of the beads can be seen, and the artful way in which Benba has used them in order to keep the weaving as flat as possible.
Now, as I write this blog and looking closely at the image of Naina with her much more recent toran, I notice that the pattern is exactly the same as Benba’s piece.
This raises some questions:
Is this a traditional pattern which is regularly used by the artisans?
Is this perhaps a family design and Naina is related to Benba, carrying on the traditional pattern?
Has Naina recognised a great design and is honouring Benba by reproducing it?
I guess I’ll have to ask those questions on my next trip to the lovely quiet village of the bead weavers.