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Crafting a future for Meghalayan artisans

Traditional artisans in Meghalaya are earning a living and preserving their dying art by selling products to Meghalayan Age – The Store.

From fishing baskets, tree houses, winnowing trays, planters, handicrafts to Lakadong turmeric, wild forest honey, Sichuan pepper, textiles in cotton, Eri, and mulberry silk to innovative and eco-friendly products from bamboo and rattan cane, Meghalayan Age – The Store is nothing less than a paradise for shoppers willing to buy a range of traditional homegrown and handmade products from Meghalaya.

Launched in Delhi in 2022 to brand and promote Meghalaya and create employment opportunities in the region, the store presents a distinctive blend of the state’s culture, tradition and artisanal excellence in traditional offerings.

The store houses products that are homegrown, handpicked and handcrafted by artisans and entrepreneurs. They are carefully selected for their quality and sustainability.

Birthing CH Marak (in video) is one such artisan who is selling handmade products at the store. He specilises in making products from cane and bamboo.

Born into a family of weavers at Gongganggre village in South Garo Hills, Marak saw his parents and grandparents make products. Due to lack of money, his home became his classroom. At 12, he started joined them and independently made products without acquiring any formal training in this art.

He sourced the raw material from the forests near his village where they were grown locally. Since then, there’s been no looking back. At 33, he earns a living, while preserving the dying art of making traditional handmade goods.

Blastine Sang Ma, another craftsman from the Garo tribe, makes music instruments and also teaches music to his tribe. The 47-year-old artist plays Dodrong, a traditional instrument that is made from Gambare wood and goat’s skin. Sang Ma’s interest in music led him to make music instruments. But now it’s his source of income when Meghalayan Age – The Store recognised his craft.

There are many craftsmen and craftswomen like these Barak and Sang Ma whose lives have been transformed thanks to the store that buys products directly from the local artisans in Meghalaya. But choosing the right craftsperson isn’t a cakewalk for the store’s founders.

Some of the artisans who offer craftsmanship to the store.

Meghalayan Age – The Store launched the Atelier programme to encourage artisans to pursue their craft professionally. Twenty-two artisans specialised in pottery making, textiles, bamboo and cane products were chosen at an annual competition.

Sharing details about the programme, Dr. Vijay Kumar D, Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Meghalaya, says, “We selected superior craftsmen who are great at their craft. We picked up these artisans and gave them a grant of INR 5 lakh to build their studio in Meghalaya. These artisans were impaneled as training partners. This allows them to talk to craftspeople in their region and create unique designs at store. We also give design inputs to them on how to modify traditional designs. The products that are sold in the store carry a margin, a large part it goes to craftspersons.”

Meghalayan Age – The Store aims to put Meghalaya on the map for artwork, handicrafts, handlooms, food, literature and music that are entirely indigenous, handcrafted, and locally produced. It is a Government of Meghalaya initiative. The store is housed in the Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan.

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