Image: All images courtesy of Heritage Mizoram
“In Aizwal, the state capital, women have opportunities for work. In fact, even if a woman has no formal education she can sell products or vegetables and make a little income. However, in villages there are no employment possibilities”, says textile revivalist Charlee Mathlena, founder, Heritage Mizoram.
Charlee is speaking of the importance of reaching out to women weavers in his home state of Mizoram, India. Mizoram, that means land of the Mizos, is a state located in the southernmost part of north-east India. It is a landlocked state, bordered by three Indian states and the countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar; is home to many ethnic groups and sub-groups that are culturally or linguistically related; and is a land of hill ranges that often makes travel to villages time-consuming.
The state has a tradition of hand-weaving; women have long woven textiles and garments on back-strap looms with naturally-dyed hand-spun yarns. It is in this context that Charlee decided to work with women weavers to preserve the region’s rich heritage of hand-weaving, to spread awareness of Mizo textiles and help women work from their homes and earn an income.
He researched traditional shawls and puans, akin a wraparound skirt, worn by Mizo women. He learnt of over thirty different traditional puan patterns, worked with supplementary yarns, each of which reflects the ethnic group the weaver belongs to.
Drawing on this body of work Charlee went on to design a range of signature cotton and silk shawls and puans that are hand-woven and of a traditional bearing. Charlee then collaborated with the weavers to design a range of home furnishings, garments and fashion accessories that have been appreciated by textile lovers worldwide.
Charlee works with 64 weavers, who weave on backstrap and frame looms, to create textile products. He also leads textile tours to Mizoram. He hopes Mizo textiles will continue to find a place in the home and hearts of people across the world.
This guest article was written by Brinda Gill.
Find out more about Charlee Mathlena and Heritage Mizoram on their Instagram account: heritage_mizoram