A New Generation of Artisans

A New Generation of Artisans

It’s been a long time since we last posted here and a lot has been going on. So we wanted to share with you a story that will, hopefully, get you excited.

When we started Kantala back in 2013, there were only 8 artisans from the village of Henvala engaged with Kantala and the average age of the artisans was close to 60. The younger folk in Henavala showed a lack of interest in the craft and were already engaged in other forms of employment.

Together with Mr Dharmadasa we identified the village of Alokagama, formerly known as Yatwatta, which is about an hours drive further north from the city of Kandy, as a place to recruit new artisans. Families from Henavala and Alokagama have over the generations married into families of the other village. This created a close relationship between the two and many of the villagers in Alokagama were familiar with the craft.

At the entrance to the Alokagama village.

The village community centre - with the residential cattle gracing in the foreground.

Rice fields bordering the village.

In late 2016, together with Mr Dharmadasa we started to train a group from Alokagama and today we have 13 artisans from the village. The best part is their average is 43 years.

The drive from Kandy itself is very scenic and I was quite depressed at having to keep my eyes on the road than take in the scenery - lives were at stake. The village is an absolutely gorgeous place, nestled among rolling mountains and lush vegetation. I met the new artisans at the village community centre. What needs to be mentioned is that all the artisans from Alokagama are women between the ages of 23 and 67 years. They were an immensely energetic bunch, full of life and zeal.

The Knuckles mountain range in the distance seen from the road en-route to Alokagama (and I stopped and got out of the car to take the picture - just saying if you are concerned).

The artisans of Alokagama with Mr Dharmadasa.

Some of the artisans were previously housemaids, working in Middle Eastern countries. This a harsh profession that leaves a considerable toll on both the women who travel to work - in the form of physical and psychological abuse - and the families they leave behind. I was overwhelmed by the gratitude these women had for giving them an opportunity to work from home, weaving hana mats for Kantala and earn a living wage.

The artisans of Alokagama taking part in the Fashion Revolution campaign.

We have been looking to recruit a deputy to work with Mr Dharmadasa and think we have finally found the suitable candidate in Alokagama. With the new artisans at Alokagama, 82% of the artisans engaged with Kantala are women and it is necessary that we have more women coming up the ranks to take charge of securing the future of this 300 year old handwoven craft.

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