for the Future
the 22nd of October blue is the colour. Aranya Craft Ltd on
Kemal Ataturk will be hosting an exhibition in celebration
and for the promotion of neel, otherwise known as indigo.
20 years ago, the cultivation of indigo had died out. The
actual word 'indigo' in fact stems from the Ancient Greek
derivation of the Indian word Indikos, meaning 'from the Indus
River'. The Greeks, although they traded with India, did not
use indigo extensively. This was left to their future counterparts,
the European traders of the seventeenth century who gave it
a place of honour among their exports. They also dealt with
indigo from India but shifted their attention to the superior
dye makers of Bengal, in particular from the Jessore and Nadia
encouraged farmers, often with brutality, to grow the magical
plant. In the event of a crop failure farmers were indebted
to the Europeans who, in short, held a monopoly over this
particular branch of agriculture. They maintained this level
of debt as a way of forcing farmers to continue the cultivation
of the blue plant and, what is more, sell their produce at
unfairly low prices.
the 'Blue Mutiny'. Farmers were tired of unjust treatment
and refused to grow indigo preferring instead to grow rice
so that they could at least feed their families. The revolt
was supported by the educated and elite classes of Bengal
and the British government proceeded to make legislations
in favour of the protection of farmers from enforced cultivation
of the plant.
as this was for the, by now impoverished, farmers of Bengal,
combined with the development of industry around the world
and, in 1897 the discovery of German aniline dyes, the use
of natural dyes, indigo or otherwise, was eventually eradicated.
1982 Ruby Ghuznavi, on behalf of the Vegetable Dye Society,
began looking for natural dyes in Bangladesh. She discovered
many derelict and long forgotten indigo vats but no dyers
and her inquiries were met with hostility. Clearly the bloody
saga of the indigo farmers had become dyed-in-the-wool.
works closely with Mennonite Central Committee, an international
NGO who now have a well developed agriculture program in Bangladesh
but who began researching the cultivation of the indigo plant
in order to create sustainable employment for the rural poor.
to beautiful blue scarves, the process of extraction of indigo
is by no means one to be taken lightly and can take months.
Indeed the final dying process is something of alchemy as
the indigo colour only develops on contact with oxygen.
it is a time consuming and labour intensive operation, indigo
comes at a certain price. However, it is still preferable
to have indigo made authentically by many smaller establishments
rather than centralised in one huge co-operative. As such
indigo cultivation also has the advantage of providing employment
and gives workers the opportunity to learn a traditional craft
of Bangladesh which has long since been eradicated.
is a friendly plant--an eco-friendly plant, that is. Spent
leaves from the extraction process can be re-used as fertiliser
and its impact of the land in which it grows is such that
it can be cultivated between other crops to revitalise the
soil and make it even more arable.
80% of Aranya's customers are from Bangladesh it is important
that people here realise how beneficial indigo is. Aranya
already benefits from a huge export revenue extending from
Japan to Europe to America and even boasts some very well
known companies as clients. There is a huge market for indigo
- people like blue. But as Pushpa Rozario, production manager
of Aranya, not many people instantly like the subtle hues
that Aranya produce. "Our colours are much lighter than
chemical dyes but once people buy something from us, they
always come back". Colours at Aranya are the real McCoy.
is with this push for the recognition of indigo in mind that
Aranya is holding its exhibition in conjunction with MCC.
Exhibited items will, it goes without saying, be for sale
and include a wealth of items to decorate both yourselves
and your homes. Anything from silk sarees to fine, muslin
scarves and cotton cushion covers, to skirts, mens' punjabis
and dressing gowns can be found in a variety of shades of
blue. Of course all items are hand made and are available
with or without exquisite details such as printed geometric
patterns, waxed patterns or painstakingly worked embroidery.
Even if blue is not your colour Aranya is definitely worth
a visit for its rainbow of other natural colours from jet
blacks to burnt pinks to ocherous yellows. The choice is yours.
will run from 22nd October to 15th November subject to Eid-ul-Fitr
and Aranya's products will also be available form Kumundi,
Prabortora, Shllaikon, Tangail kutir, Bonoz Barndi and Ayon.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004