Having passed through many small villages and a countryside dotted with temples, the last 10 kilometers of our trip is on a bumpy road through bamboo jungle. The road opens up to reveal a wide valley planted with seasonal crops, and it is in this setting that we meet the artisans. The Lambadi artisans of Sittilingi are thought to have migrated here several hundred years ago, moving down from the Gujarat-Rajasthan border along with the troops of the Mughal army.
Over time agriculture became their primary source of income, and modernization meant traditional ways and especially their craft started to disappear. Trading traditional dress for more practical clothing meant that the decorative stitches with which we create our hand embroidered pieces were no longer needed and were under threat of becoming extinct.
Luckily, two elders in the community still had a vast knowledge of the traditional stitches and, together with their help, the Lambadis of Sittilingi were able to revive the craft and make it an integral part of their livelihoods. As they work to preserve and pass on their heritage to future generations, this group has grown to include around 50 working artisans, with more joining every year. Our aim is to help ensure that the group has sufficient work to sustain it throughout the year, developing a stable source of income and allowing the group to take steps to secure their future.
Though our visits with them are relatively short, we enjoy those moments when we get to create our pieces together, adapting stitches, colors and design. Brought together in a communal setting we enjoy watching them work as they chat away together quickly and with temperament in their Lambadi dialect.