Kutch textiles: Pabiben Rabari, the female tribal entrepreneur

Posted on May 8, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Pabiben Rabari

 

In our current fast-paced and globalised world, we are faced with some important questions about our past, present and future: how to preserve traditions and yet make them relevant today? Can we preserve the skills and knowledge but evolve at the same time? Many artisans, craftsmen and designers around the world are trying to find a balance between traditions and innovations. Traditions have to evolve with time, otherwise they would extinct, so we all need to think out of the box when it comes to preservation.

Originally from (possibly) Iran or Afghanistan, the semi-nomadic Rabari community of cattle and camel raisers migrated to Kutch and Rajasthan about 400 years ago. The Rabari women are well-known for their shisha mirror embroidery, which has been passed on for generations. It is customary for young girls to prepare her own dowries, which include the wedding costumes for the bride and groom, hangings for the new home, and trappings for the domestic animals. However, the dowry-making process could take years, and paid for by the groom; as a way of easing the burden for both sides and the delay of marriages, the elderly in the community decided to ban the making and wearing of hand embroidery for personal usage in 1995.

 

Pabiben Rabari

 

In order to preserve the Rabari embroidery, a group of Rabari women came up with a new solution without breaking the community’s rules: machine application of readymade elements, which they called 'Hari Jari.' One woman from the group, Pabiben Rabari, became a master of this art and created her own style using trims and ribbons, which is later known as 'Pabi Jari'. She applied this technique onto some shopping bags and they became instant hits. Her Pabi bags are loved by celebrities, and were featured in Hollywood and Bollywood films. As the first female entrepreneur from her tribe, Pabiben has become an inspiration to many women in her community. The mission of her enterprise is to develop a strong viable business model for women artisans, and she works with 50 women in Bhadroi village of different ages and skill levels to create fair trade accessories.

We visited Pabiben's house and workshop in Bhadroi village one afternoon, and we were greeted by her and a group of Rabari women who kindly demonstrated their superb embroidery skills and showed us some of their samples. It was wonderful to see these women from the same community working together to bring about positive changes to their village while preserving and reviving an ancient art form.

 

Pabiben Rabari  Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben Rabari  Pabiben Rabari

 

Interestingly, we found out that traditionally Rabari women would be dressed in black clothing with black veils, meanwhile, men would be dressed in white clothing with white turbans. Legend has it that once a Muslim king fell in love with a Rabari girl, but his proposals were denied by the community, so the king grew angry and threatened to kill them all. The Rabaris were forced out of their land in search of a new safe place and were assisted by a Muslim man from the court. Later, the king found out about this and killed the Muslim man. It is believed that it was then that the Rabari women started wearing black to mourn his death.

 

Pabiben Rabari  Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben Rabari

 

Pabiben's shop/showroom is packed with colourful, bold and one-of-a-kind accessories and bags. Her products are sold at many high-end outlets in India such as the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel and ARTISANS’ in Mumbai, as well as some independent shops overseas. She has also won many awards for her inspiring work and achievement. I think if every tribe in India has a woman like Pabiben in their village, then we are likely to see a very different India in the future.

 

Pabiben Rabari  Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben Rabari

Pabiben Rabari

 

 


This post was posted in Shopping, Travel, Designers & artists, Design, Textiles, India, Indian design, embroidery, Kutch and was tagged with textiles, embroidery, India, Indian design, Kutch, Indian textiles, Kutch textiles, Pabiben Rabari, female entrepreneur

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