If you ever plan to visit the Indian state of Assam, you’ll have to forget everything you’ve heard about travelling in India: food and water don’t make you sick, the landscape is very clean and super beautiful (although the bamboo bridges often live up to their unstable reputations), it is very unlikely that you’ll meet any other tourists, and nobody wants to take a picture of you.
We went to Assam to visit our artisans from the Bodo tribe. Most of our weavers live on a campus close to the Bangladeshi border where they eat, sleep and weave together. The majority are women who have decided against marrying at a young age, and instead choose to live their life with self-determination. By weaving for us they can make an independent income and decide what they want to do with their lives. Part of the money they earn, they save up so they can start their own business after having worked on campus for a couple of years.
The Bodos have been struggling against discrimination, and for political and economic self-determination since the 1950s. Although the name is not formerly recognized by the Indian government, the Bodos call the land they live on “Bodoland”.
Weaving is integral part of their culture. If you visit a Bodo home, you will notice that no courtyard is complete without a loom. Many families rear their own silkworms, the cocoons of which are spun into silk. The silk that is cultivated and used by our weavers is called Eri silk. Usually within silk production process, the silkworms are killed when the cocoons are cooked to extract the silk thread. Eri silk is also called “non-violent” silk, since the silk cocoons are gathered after the moth emerges. This means that Eri is actually the only type of silk that is 100% vegan. Most women, like Nadini, learn how to cultivate and weave the silk from the mothers at an early age.
Text by Lisa Jaspers, Co-Founder of FOLKDAYS
Photos by Ute Klein