Following Konabari we visited the Ubinig training section at the Pathrail village in Tangail, a long beautiful drive through the countryside.
Ubinig is an organisation set up to promote and preserve traditional skills in Bangladesh. Ubinig translates to Policy Research for Development Alternatives, and it started as a study group in the mid 80’s focusing on research into the different needs exist and could be improved. It now focuses mainly on farming and weaving, identified as family income generation methods. Improving working possibilities for women, Ubinig focuses on training programmes to help women become independent. For example in the weaving training section there are 20 looms and women trained on weaving can then chose to either weave textiles for Prabartana or for the local market. Prabartana works with Ubinig to support and promote hand loomed Bangladeshi textiles. Unibig and Prabartana provides the weavers with support both in financial terms and in marketing and design advice. The farming section is based on promoting organic production and seed preservation. The farmers can take seeds free of charge and after production supply the centre with seeds so there is a continuous supply.
We first visited the seed training section. We were treated to the most delicious lunch we have had so far, and were mesmerised by the lush courtryside, the fresh air, the bird’s songs and the colourful fields! We visited the different seed units and learn that there are 2,000 different types of seeds, all categorised and kept in different named ceramic pots. We heard that the farmers come together at the seed area twice a day, once at sunrise and once at sunset to all sing and prey for the wellbeing of their crops and families. We saw the cows running the mill for extracting mustard oil, visited the seed sorting and saw rice crushing into flour.
We then went on to see many different weaving workshops, starting with the Ubinig tranining section where some of the women were working weaving yardage and scarves. Tangail is well known for their jacquard fabrics and we visited a few different set ups (usually small outbuildings with 4-6 looms), where patterned cloth was laboriously woven from super fine silk and metallic threads. We also saw a type of brocade weaving resembling jamdani called bouti weaving.
We were amazed to see a long red and yellow silk warp stretched on a road in one of the small villages. The weavers were sorting out the threads and adjusting the tension and then went on to wind the warp on the beam on one end of the road, while a weaver was holding the tension by walking towards them on the other side. From one end it looked like it was a colourful road, a perfect image for the New Silk Route project! (see pics towards the end).
It is empowering to see all the beautiful textiles the Bangladeshi people make with sometimes very little resources. The image of the little girl making a bamboo reed will stay in my mind and remind me how many things we can do with our hands. I am desperate to do some weaving!
A big thank you to Shahid Shamim from Prabartana for making this trip possible for us, the British Council for providing the transport and the lovely Laura for being our companion and new friend!
see the pics below, videos coming soon!
links: Ubinig: http://membres.multimania.fr/ubinig/index.htm, Prabartana:http://membres.multimania.fr/ubinig/prabartana/index.htm