Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leather-work Artisans in a village near Ajmer

For well over 300 years leatherwork has been the primary occupation of a particular group of artisans in Rajasthan, India. This group is adept in the preparation and tanning of hides and few could match their skill in the making of saddles, harness or tackle. In the past they were sought after to furnish the leather armour for the cavalry. Historically, they have also produced containers for gathering and storing water. They also make shoes (juti) and the ornamented neck belts and face decoration of herd animals.

Modern India has little need for these items however, and the traditional skills of these artisans are vanishing. In 1976, as an initiative of Ravi J Mathai of IIM Ahmedabad, and the National Institute for Design, a leatherwork co-operative was formed in Jawaja. Jawaja had two goals: eliminate toxic or ineffective stages in production and design a new line for the contemporary market based on traditional strengths and skills. Now these products are exported widely.

Jawaja is in the Ajmer district, about 3.5hrs drive from Jaipur, on the way to Jodhpur. The cooperative through which the leather production is managed is called the Jawaja Leather Association.

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