A splendid morning filled with joy and hope. Under the open skies of Alipur Kanju, a small village located in the South of Punjab, sat the women artisans, evoking emotions, chanting, and inventing. Something the world might not have seen before. They are always creating something, merely doing what they enjoy the most. Hand craftsmanship is an integral and complex aspect of women’s history as a tool of their education, activity of leisure, symbol of femininity, and weapon of resistance. It has been used to reinforce patriarchal standards and codes of women’s behaviour, attitudes, and conduct.
When I decided to move to Alipur and work for the welfare of rural women for their economic empowerment to secure their livelihoods and rights I was assured that education was not the only solution. What most of these women needed along with the basic education was skill training. This eventually led me to work on building an institute, an art, and craft space for the women of my village, where they could be trained in various skills, such as pottery, sewing, embroidery and painting by the expertise. I accomplished my vision and Made in Alipur, came into being.
Pakistan’s hand craftsmanship is embedded in every aspect of its identity dating back to at least 6000 years. From courtly splendour to global trade, textiles and hand embroidery are means of creative expression to date. Pakistani embroidery is a centuries-old tradition. During the Mughal era in the 16th and 17th centuries, embroidery became an important art form in the royal courts. This intricate and colourful art form is a symbol of the country’s cultural heritage and has been popularised all over the world. If we pause to tie meaning to the evolution of the ideas and attitudes of mankind, the ancestral practice of craftsmanship can be considered as one of the most repositories of culture.
In embroidery, the simplest tools, the fine needle or the needle are enough to create beautiful patterns on an otherwise plain cloth. I am acutely aware of the role craft plays in sustaining our culture and economy, environment protection and social equity. At Made in Alipur our endeavour is to recognise the importance of diversity, inclusion, and representation of communities and their representative material. Our women innovate upon traditional craft techniques to create contemporary variations. For me, craft culture and creating new autonomy for women have been inextricably interlinked. I recognised the need to implement holistic solutions focused on all-round development through education and skill training.
I found severe poverty in my district. Women were distressed, struggling to make ends meet. Their husbands are away from home most of the days to search for work, even then, however, some days they do not have enough money to put food on their tables. Made in Alipur has Started to benefit many already Shazia is one of them. She joined the team a few months ago, her husband has been very sick for the past few years. It was getting difficult for her to manage the household with 2 daughters and 4 sons (all under 18 years) to take care of. “My situation has improved drastically. I now make a healthy profit from sewing and embroidering clothes–which is enough for me to run my household. I feel completely at peace now, I feel happier and secure” says Faiz Bibi.
Furthermore, the women of Alipur have collaborated with local brands such as Lama, By the Way and Begum Bano. They are currently working on a collaboration with a British artist. These women are so talented and hardworking that they do some great work which needs recognition and appreciation. It is a pleasure to see them work with so much commitment and love. This collaboration with renowned brands has given them the confidence and happiness they truly deserve. As a community, we all need to make an effort to help and support our rural women if we want to prosper as a successful nation.