Sunday, 29 January 2012

If you're ever in Hyderabad....

There's nothing like travel to broaden your mind and make you realize what difficult lives most people in the world have just trying to keep body and soul together.  

Les Soeurs are always interested to see what's going on locally on a textile level and during a recent trip to India we had the great good fortune to meet the remarkable and inspirational  octogenarian, Suraiya Hassan, who has given up her comfortable life in a wealthy Muslim family to live amongst, support and train the impoverished, unskilled widows of Hyderabad.

Suraiya Hassan

 By teaching them how to produce historical North Indian patterns on original-style looms - a skill generally lost or forgotten in the wake of modern technology - she has provided, over the last eight years, a much needed source of income for their families whilst re-introducing the traditional skills of spinning and weaving.  And, as if that wasn't enough she has also provided - and helps run - a small school for their children.  All this at an age when most people are enjoying the a well-earned rest.

The textiles are woven in both silk and cotton (or both) and a length of five meters can take two women, working together on a loom, anywhere upwards of three months to produce (only 3 inches a day).  Suraiya sources all the old patterns and motifs from original items of clothing that she collects and very often just small scraps, all that remains of a ceremonial jacket or sari.

This is not a charity (Suraiya is quiet adamant she will not take contributions) but if you would like to support this worthy venture and are interested in purchasing a length of these frankly gorgeous reproductions (a minimum length of 10m as it takes two days to set up the loom for each new colourway), Suraiya will take orders and can arrange to send you photographs and details via email from which to choose.

All I can add is that these fabrics are ridiculously well-priced considering the work that goes into them, though import tax would most probably bring the costs up to a more reasonable level.