A rapidly growing issue has spread across the state of Meghalaya, one that goes much deeper than just a simple solution. You may be wondering what kind of issues the villagers of Meghalaya might face. After all, pristine water flows through their picturesque villages where the whole community comes together if a neighbor is faced with a problem. Sadly, an issue is arising, with its roots from the outside world, far beyond these unspoiled villages.
Fast Fashion Is Not Slowing Down and It’s Impacting Village Livelihood
Modernization and technology are changing the course of these villages today. It is taking away some of the historical heirlooms and traditions of these villages. These village heirlooms include patterns passed on through generations. Natural forms of dyeing with plants and different styles of weaving may die. Factories around the world and in modern cities can now replicate these exact products much easier and with less expensive materials, causing these villagers to no longer have a trade or market for their traditional handmade textiles. These hand-woven shawls tell stories, the local culture is in the weave. Today, thousands of women in villages throughout Northeast India are experiencing the impact of fast fashion on their livelihood as the traditional handloom textile market declines.
Zizira’s Fairytale: A Queen, an Heirloom, and a Hut
Our team of 8 people took off on a chilly Friday morning on a journey south of the city of Shillong in search of a story that was fading: A tradition of patterns and a form of weaving that would slowly die. Our quest to connect and revive.
Stumbling upon a traditional hut in a remote village, we were able to meet a family who was also known to the village as the royal family. We asked who would know about the local village weavers. They said we should wait to speak to the queen. She was down at the river bathing. While we waited we entered the traditional house that belonged to the queen. The wood on the hut was etched with tribal patterns and motifs.
The queen was young, unmarried and beautiful. We spoke to her about her traditional clothing while also showing us some of the traditional patterns that had been weaved from centuries passed. We oohed and awed at the natural plant-based colors on the family heirloom. The weave was beautiful and intricate. It was a sash made by the queen’s grandmother (pictured).
People in the village no longer weave with the same intricate designs or patterns since they have no market for this intricate and high value work. It is truly sad seeing that these women feel that there is no hope for their trade, and their only option is to let it die with them. We left our visit with the queen with more knowledge than we began with. A surprise visit that proved once again that there were so many hidden stories that were slowly fading. Stories that could accidentally be stumbled upon and brought back to life.
What Zizira Is Doing to Revive Traditions
Later in the trip, we came across a group of women that had come together with their looms. They were weaving with natural plant-based dyes.
Their products were stunning. Earthy, organic colors were being used to dye natural eri silk material that could be used for many different products. These women were giggling at the thought of our team coming to their building and taking pictures of their beautiful work. We were drawn to the way they were dyeing since so many women now dye their yarn with chemical dye, rather than natural, since it is much easier and less expensive.