POST TIME: 8 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Modernising Jamdani
By Sheikh Iraj

Modernising Jamdani

In 2013, the traditional art of jamdani weaving was acknowledged as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). Over the years, the demand for the fine muslin fabric has only increased. "Jamdani items have a huge demand now, compared to a few years ago. At present, we are regularly exporting our jamdani products to different European countries,” said Sakayet Ul Bari, public relation officer of BSCIC (Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation). “Over the years, many new jamdani designs have entered the market. Many of our prominent artists, like Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hassan, have used jamdani in their work. They used to come up with new design ideas. Today, some young artists are also working to modernise jamdani designs. I believe most people can still afford to buy jamdani products," he added.   

Traditionally, the delicate handloom cotton, woven with colourful motifs, was only used to make sarees. However, jamdani fabric is now used to make everything from shirts, dresses and evening bags to curtains, cushion covers and other decorative items.   

BSCIC recently organised a 10-day exhibition and fair to showcase jamdani weavers and products at the Bangladesh National Museum in the city.

M Jabbar Ali, owner of Rifat Jamdani, was anxiously waiting for his first customer on the first day of the fair on May 29. "There are 32 stalls at this fair and we are looking forward to a good response from customers. Today, an authentic jamdani saree or equivalent six metres of fabric would cost at least Taka 3,000. Anything less than that price means the product is not real jamdani, woven on a loom. There are many vendors out there who may sell a jamdani saree for Tk 1,500.  They are hiding the fact that their cloth is made using a machine or power loom, whereas a real jamdani saree or fabric must be completely handmade," Ali said.

 "The BSCIC industrial area at Tarabo of Rupganj (in Narayanganj) is home to many jamdani weavers. BSCIC has a display and sales centre there. I have invested Taka 2.5 million and from that, I usually make an annual profit of Tk 500,000 on average. Every year, BSCIC organises two jamdani fairs; we also participate in other privately organised fairs in our country and abroad," Ali added.

M Azizul, another stall-owner at the fair, said: "Normally, most of jamdani-makers do not hire any designers. We come up with new ideas ourselves. I took part in the Chittagong (Chattagram) jamdani fair and there were 18 stalls. I am quite satisfied with the feedback we received in Chittagong and hopefully, Dhaka won't be any different.”

Taslima Akter was visiting the National Museum with her children. She noticed the fair and decided to take a look. "I got some free time, so I brought my children to the museum. I didn't know the museum was hosting such a magnificent jamdani fair. I like the designs and the quality of jamdani fabrics that the stalls have in their collection. The prices are quite reasonable, too, and one can find authentic jamdani products here," she said.

M Ali Imran, 18, another visitor, added: "I didn't know panjabis (loose long shirts) could be made from jamdani fabric. I will like to buy one for the upcoming Eid."

Highlighting some recent measures of the government to develop and modernise our jamdani industry, State Minister for Textile and Jute Mirza Azam told the opening ceremony: “There used to be 2 million jamdani weavers, but now there are only 300,000 of them left. To save the art of jamdani weaving, the government initially allocated a fund of Tk 500 million, which has now turned into Tk 1.2 billion. We will soon start a project which will include building a new jamdani industrial area.”

The state minister added that Bangladeshi scientists were also trying to discover the gene of the cotton fibre that once produced the finest muslins in Bengal. “That is why we have collected some muslin samples from a British museum. We have also given a fund of Tk 1 billion to Rajshahi University, where researchers are working on find the gene of muslin cotton,” Azam said. n

Photo: Courtesy.