Ah the peace of village life

I’ve been in Bhuj two days and it makes a nice change from hectic Ahmedabad. While it is busy, Bhuj is quite small and easy to get around. I’m staying at the Gangaram, a friendly guest house at the top of the Shroff bazaar and near the imposing Aina and Prag Mahal.
Since I was last here, there seems to be more traffic, particularly motorbikes, and more hotels which cater to the growing number of tourists. Accompanying these are increasing numbers of shops selling the regions’ diverse range of crafts.  Gujarat Tourism is realising the attraction that the local crafts have all over the world and are beginning to promote this to give Bhuj a more prominent position on the tourist map.
I was lucky to visit Kala Raksha yesterday in Sumrasar village where I worked for six weeks two years ago. I managed to catch Judy before the classes at the Vidyalaya (design school for artisans) start on Monday. I caught up with old friends around the village and drank lots of chai.
It was nice to see the artisans who were studying at the design
school when I was last here, who have since graduated and are producing some really nice work. Ramjibhai, a weaver when I saw him last was producing woven pieces that were good quality but too plain and uninteresting for the current market. He’s now experimenting with texture and colour and producing some lovely contemporary pieces.
A veteran artisan working with Kala Raksha, Meghiben has moved from embroidery to patchwork which is easier on her eyesight. She has won many awards and has had her work published in magazines and books with the help of Judy and Kala Raksha. She greeted me with hugs and excitedly showed me all her work and articles published about it with much pride. Currently narrative work is the trend for the patchwork artisans and Meghiben’s most celebrated piece is the story of her life. Shes’ also done a piece narrating Ghandiji’s life. An animation film has recently been made of these pieces which I was given and look forward to watching.
The co-founder Prakashbhai’ s family live next door to KR and Raniben, Prakash’s mother also does patchwork. She showed me a narative piece which tells the story of her trip to Australia for an exhibition there. Also a lively character she remembered me as ‘girl from the rann’ as I stayed with the family in a mud bhunga during the Kutch Rann Utsav (desert festival).Watch a video about the story of Kala Raksha: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3QD8_JHCpg&feature=related

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