Women Artisans & Sustainability: Exploring The Tradition Of Basket Weaving In India

Women Artisans & Sustainability: Exploring The Tradition Of Basket Weaving In India
L: Photo Dune ; R: Clothroads

The art of basket weaving is one of the many sustainable crafts originating from India that is slowly being incorporated by leading fashion houses from around the world. Made with natural fibres, the weave was originally pioneered by women from rural India who continue to practise intensive craft in order to maintain their livelihoods. The sculptural quality of the baskets remains unmatched as they utilise a number of indigenous methods to make it both functional and aesthetically appealing for the modern consumer. 

The breathtaking artistry of Indian craftsmanship dominates the international world of design and is a major asset to India’s global presence. According to official figures, 56.13% of artisans in India are women, who work in informal setups but happen to make a substantial contribution to the national income. When it comes to basket weaving, the craft is solely mastered by Indian women across different states. As conscious design is being embraced by individuals around the planet, these simple storage baskets are becoming a home decor staple and further increasing the market need for the product. 

Artisans from Manipur
Artisans from ManipurTata Trust Horizons

These individually handcrafted baskets have various iterations across Indian states, embracing diverse colours, shapes and sizes. While the storage baskets with coiled cane from Arunachal Pradesh are called ‘bamzis’, the dome shaped baskets of Manipur are called ‘phingaruks’. According to Architectural Digest, in the south, Tamil Nadu's ‘Pattamadai’ is famous for its korai (reed) mats that are likely to get their own geographical indication (GI) tag soon.

These baskets are made of natural recycled materials generally consisting of wood, grass, animal remains. The widespread craft pre-dates few forms of pottery and is also practised by women in rural Africa. As both societies have flourished due to their close relationship with nature, the most basic everyday products are also rooted in biodegradable materials. While conversations around sustainability have only dominated public discourse in the past decade, Indian women practising traditional crafts have mastered the basics of conscious production over centuries.

In recent times, the baskets have also been contemporised to suit minimal and structural designs of modern homes. New Delhi-based in-house studio Maison works with female artisans from the Anegundi region in Karnataka to make baskets. They utilise the macramé technique to knot dried banana fibres and juxtapose modern designs with traditional basketry. Other homegrown brands like Mianzi are working with these artisans and utilising Bamboo to create lightweight baskets that mimic the patterns and silhouettes found in nature. Hence celebrating the unique art of basketry and supporting the women artisans behind them.