Is COVID Killing Dhokra Crafts Village Sadei Bareni?

posted in: Art & Crafts | 0

Dhokra, is the process of casting metal through lost wax. Craftsmen of villages around Sadei Bareni in Dhenkanal district of Odisha, adept at putting their articulate skills in brass and bell metal, have inherited this expertise from their forefathers. Despite the low income and harsh living conditions, these men and women haven’t given up on their almost 4000 years old ancient tradition. The Govt of Odisha, before a few years gave Sadei Bareni the status of Crafts Village and started promoting the Dhokra Products.

During our regular visits in the pre-covid period, the village street, especially Nabajivanpur, used to be lined up with the residents selling their products. Each household on an average made Ten to Twelve thousand a month, enough for a decent living. A bulk part of the products were pre ordered and paid for prior to delivery.

In the absence of visitors, the main window for the craftsmen to sell their products is through exhibitions organised by various agencies which are far and few now. Sudhakar Behera, of Nabajivanpur says that the lock down was depressing. Having nothing to do, I kept making moulds with whatever raw material was available with me to wade off the depression. He shows us a room full of moulds covered with clay waiting to be baked for last two years. His earthen oven is in a dilapidated condition due to disuse. Having spent all his savings now he resorts to odd jobs in the town to make a living just like many other craftsmen.

Most of the villagers are apprehensive to adopt technology though not averse. They use basic phones. Pinky Pradhan, a young artisan and leading member of a SHG is the only one in the village having a smart phone and has some idea of online shopping. We try to broach the topic of bringing in e-commerce to their village. She understands the importance, shows interest, but is uncertain.

Suman Pradhan, leader of a cluster, shows us his store room stacked with Dhokra items upto the ceiling lying for last two years. He had even forgotten the inventory of items kept there only to re-discover them before the recent Pallishree Mela. On e-commerce, he understands its importance in expanding the business today, but doesn’t know how to go about it.

 (Team ‘odishaestore’ is working towards integrating the village to our e-commerce platform through constant engagement)

The Sate Govt has organized the village into Two clusters of 45 families each and five women SHGs having 10 members each. Also a crafts centre has been constructed where Nabajivanpur villagers have been given five stalls to display their products. However its not on the main axis and not well mapped to the tourist grid. Only a diehard fan with prior knowledge would make special efforts to reach there, cutting out time from holidaying. However a well publicized Pallishree Mela organized recently saw a number of buyers, mostly retailers who buy stuff in bulk, arising a ray of hope in the artisans. However, the price offered to the craftsmen is less owing to many intermediaries involved. Few agencies have started giving the craftsmen raw material and offer Rs 500 to 600 per Kg of produce. A family this way is able to make Rs 6000 to 8000 a month. However there is the assurance that the complete stock is picked up.

Meanwhile the industries department has started a training capsule for the youth to teach them the nuances of the craft. There are few takers with the COVID having cast the web of uncertainty in their minds.

The solution is to integrate these craftsmen into an e-commerce platform to ensure seamless flow of demands from across the world.

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