During any other year, the festive season would have meant plenty of shopping. Marriages and special occasions would have led to more shopping of both handlooms and handicrafts.However, this year brought with it a pandemic that has brought life as we know it, to a standstill. The COVID pandemic has impacted each of us in different ways. Lives have been thrown out of gear, and most of us are looking at newer ways of doing things. Shopping has gone online or being avoided altogether.
While these changes are challenging, the worst affected are the people whose livelihoods have drastically reduced to nil. One such sector is the handloom and the handicraft sector, which happens to be the second-largest employer after agriculture. As it already struggles to compete with industrialization related changes, the pandemic has just made matters worse for the weavers and artisans. With clothes and handicrafts not considered to be necessary purchases during a pandemic, people who would have shopped otherwise, are no longer buying.
Moreover, while this would have been a brisk season of sales during any other year, exhibitions and sales are no longer being conducted.
The Crafts Council of Andhra Pradesh (CCAP), understood the gravity of the situation early on and quickly got into action. Team members began inquiring about the welfare of various weavers through contacts in weavers’ societies and craftspersons. People impacted badly were identified, and support was rendered in various ways. A contribution of Rs 80,000/- for rations was made in the village of Udayagiri for non-cardholders and Rs 2,00,000/- was given to the weaver’s colony of Epurupalem in Chirala during April.
Besides providing immediate financial relief, the need to help them rejuvenate and revive, create online marketplaces, and present opportunities to thrive was understood. Crafts Council of India got together with other like-minded organizations and people under the initiative of ‘Creative Dignity’. CCAP reached out to over 100 artisans and got them on board the platform in May. Through this, the artisans will get support in stock liquidation, while they can focus on their craft.
CCAP members also actively plunged into the task of creating catalogs for different weaves and crafts, to enable sharing via social media and email. Surveys are now being done and photographs being collected to create these online catalogs. These are also being shared with friends and family, resulting in sales, which have provided some respite for the community.
The need to take the stories of artisans and weavers to the community has also been understood. In this regard, Instagram live sessions are being held frequently with different weavers and artisans. This has not only helped community members in learning more about crafts and weaves but also enabled them to connect directly with artisans.
While these are just some of the key initiatives CCAP is taking, we know that the journey is a long and trying one. With many plans and ideas lined up to help artisans’ tide through these tough times, we only hope that we will emerge victorious through this soon.
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