My association with Tai Khampti tribe began in 2012 with a courageous woman named Nang Amlavati. When I expressed my wish to work with weaves of their community, she said she would involve her family- her own mother, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law to experiment making some weaves together. She mentioned that since they had not woven saris before, this would involve some trial and errors.
Her family started to weave the more intricate patterns as the one seen in the Sari after about two years of trials and some compromised attempts. What started out among the family members in the year 2012, soon extended itself to about 30 homes of Namsai district.
In 2013, we brought about 500 kgs of cotton yarn to Arunachal Pradesh and took it as a drive to sensitise weavers towards using cotton over synthetic yarns for their indigenous weaves. Amla has championed the work we carried out with Tai Khampti weavers for more years than I could ever imagine.
She began engaging untrained weavers, single mothers, and older women to engage in weaving plain, checks and striped fabrics. Such textiles are easily available at a very low cost in mainland India. Thereby, economically it was not a great decision. But at a deeper level, it brought wealth to a lot of homes in her neighbourhood.
Rather than buying plain handloom fabrics from mainland, we began creating livelihood opportunities by weaving less intricate weaves as a medium of training new weavers and convenient income for trained ones. Some weavers took their payments part in money and part in yarn. They expressed wish to wear cotton themselves. This was the high point of this cotton drive with Tai Khampti tribe.
I have a clear memory of a walk in the lanes of Namsai. The mud roads and bamboo homes on both sides. I walked steadily with Amla while Amla was making me peep into each house. At a small strech of about 200 metres, each house on both sides of the road had a loom, and each loom had this cotton being woven. Many weavers were weaving at that very moment and sound still reverberates in my ears.
That “thik thak thik thak thik thak”. That was a walk of what potentialities come alive with courage. One of those textiles is this Sari I have named after Amlavati.
There were times when my enthusiasm would experience a lull, though Amla kept the warp and weft going, weave after weave. It is for this that I will always hold a special bond with this family as well as Tai Khampti courage to take up what most would say no to.
Here is to Amlavati and her courage, a sari made with her family! All plains, textured, stripes, checks and intricate motifs in this Sari are achieved with the set of weavers trained with this initiative.