Sunday, January 10, 2010
On the Road: Visiting Jawaja
It is early January 2010 and our jeep has just rolled into the Jawaja Village. The last time we saw the weavers and leatherworkers was in October; when they were on the screen in front of a live audience at the Maiwa Textile Symposium. For that event, representative of the Artisans Alliance of Jawaja left their homes and travelled over 350 kilometers to Ahmedebad to participate in the teleconference presentation.
It is a dusty day when we drive in, but then it is almost always a dusty day in Rajasthan, with frequent drought and much desert. It's a hard place to live. When the dust settles we see the group waiting. We tumble out of the car and begin our formal greetings with "Namaste" No matter what is going to happen, it will happen after the social formalities have been properly completed.
After the greetings the entire group bursts into applause. Everyone is there: the women, the men, the children. Leatherworkers and weavers. Smiles are everywhere. It continues for some time and we, collectively, blush.
Not many of us get to see how our actions influence the lives of others. Cause and effect is hard to determine, especially in human interactions and especially between cultures. But when we met the group in the village square, and then moved on to the co-operative's warehouse we knew that we (and everyone who came to the auditorium that night for their presentation) had accomplished something. What impressed the artisans of Jawaja most was that when things went wrong (Canada refused the Artisans and translator Ashoke Chatterjee permission to enter the country.) Maiwa didn't give up. We didn't say "Well, we've tried - sorry." That confidence, that support; from people on the other side of the world, travelled a great distance and made a considerable impact.
The group faces many challenges of which the visa denials are only one example. As artisans they often focus closely on their craft, and (as with most craftspeople) problems can arise if the financial aspects of craft are not constantly watched. This is probably the area in which Maiwa can help most; financial planning, costing, estimating, and marketing.
As we wrapped up our meetings we took the group photo you see at the top. The feeling of pride was everywhere ... and as we turned to go we were told, "Of course, we still want to come to Canada!"