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March 29, 2020

‘Working from isolation’

Business

March 29, 2020

HYDERABAD: Amidst grim and gloom of coronavirus outbreak around the country, artisans from Sindh have found an unusual calm in self isolation as they continue to work from home during the lock down, thus utilizing their time purposefully.

Reports gathered by The News found out that skilled artisan, both male and female, associated with Ajrak-making workshops in Bhitshah town and its vicinity have been assigned specific tasks like printing, dyeing and washing Ajraks at homes, instead of attending their workplaces.

Given the lockdown situation, obviously all Ajrak-making workshops have been closed and workers are restricted not to come. But the work has not halted and continues from home as the workshop owners have provided them with the required material.

Artisans like Ajrak makers fall in the rare category of crafts workers who have had an exposure to demonstrate and display their products at exhibitions and business fairs in major cities, like Hyderabad, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

A few random interviews with artisans gathered that no doubt presently there is no market or sale point for these products but they are hopeful to have the stock ready for future marketing. Many artisans shared that they consider it a blessing to receive financial support from workshop owners.

Some of the Ajrak manufacturers had already drawn contracts with leading traders and exporters in major cities and expect to receive financial support to engage workers to continue working from homes.

Similarly, artisans using wheat straw for making various eco-friendly products, including baskets, bowls, plates, wall-hangings etc. also looked optimistic. Since the time for wheat crop is around, they can get raw material easily at cheap rates, thus keeping them busy instead of adopting fear and raising a hue and cry for being out of work leading to financial difficulties.

Shakeel Abro, director Sindh Indigenous Traditional Crafts Company (Sitco) said a large number of artisans have been trained to compete through their talent to win a market for their products. That is why these artisans despite difficult time have continued producing artworks from homes to avoid any psychological stress or fear, he opined.

However, the workers associated with major crafts industries like; Jandi (wooden work), Kashi (ceramic art made by clays), and makers of a variety of cloth and shawls are sitting idle at homes because of complete lockdown in the province.

Abro said they are in touch with these workers and are appreciating them to continue working from homes in isolation to avoid any violation of leaving home premises. This is the only way out to avoid the spread of virus and help lessen the poverty at individual/ household level. Despite hardships and poverty there is much talent that needs to be explored and provided with opportunities, he said.

Majeed Mallah, a flower producer and now promoter of traditional crafts in Hyderabad’s suburban villages, said a small number of women rilly-makers have kept themselves busy in working at homes. The fact remains that rilly products do not have an attractive market locally, the women keep stitching rag by rag to complete beautiful sprawls, which they may then exhibit at major crafts’ fairs in future.

These rilli-maker women have also got opportunities quite recently to exhibit their products at expo centers and crafts fairs in different cities.

Like rilli, hand-embroidery makers are also hopeful to have stock of their products ready for brighter days. In fact these artisans do not have any financial support from any side but they arrange raw materials on their own to continue and utilize time at hand.

The reports gathered also show that majority of workers associated with construction, agriculture and daily wagers are facing hardships to find any alternative work to meet their domestic needs in the face of this global crisis.

Livestock, which is considered to be the second largest sector and a major source of income for rural people in the province, has suffered badly since herders had no option but to sell assets in an attempt to ease off financial pressures. Livestock markets are no longer held and the entire business has been suspended for an indefinite period across the province.

The traditional art and craft promoters believe that for the last few years the market of traditional handicrafts has been growing fast, offering some incentive to the producers. There is variety of handicrafts known after their specific areas are these are being produced from home at a time of lockdown. These artisans should be encouraged and supported for this work at a time of fear and chaos.