Dhaka, Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Handcrafting: Ray of Economy

Handcrafting: Ray of Economy

Karniz Rabbi Refat: Handcrafting is an art form which prevailed from many years ago in our country. It started almost 2000 years ago. During those times, it was a comprehensive part of the Indian sub-continent. So, the history is a little bit complicated. Artisans mainly used to make artifacts for the temples and ceremonial occasions, household items for rich homes such as perfume holders, rose-water holders, spoons, water bowls as well as sword cases.

Folk or rural communities developed a distinct form of ornaments, copying the vivid shapes from nature, leaves, flowers, birds, fish, moon and stars. The decoration was made in silver and gold for every part of the body such as ears, nose, neck, arms, wrists, fingers, waist, hips and so on. That time they used to weave the world famous Muslin cloth near the villages of Shitolokkha. After 1971, when Bangladesh finally achieved independence as a sovereign state, we got our very own crafting history with diversified culture.

During British rule, the Westerners got to know about our culture and handicrafts. They adored such delightful and aesthetic kinds of stuff and so the demand was never lessened. For the time being, they started demanding more and more but our production was limited and artisans were discouraged due to the replacement of artistic stuff with plastic. So, other countries such as China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam grabbed the opportunity and started raising their economy with handicraft exporting. They also took over our handicraft market with their updated products.

In this era of globalization if we can focus on our handicraft we can raise our economy like the other Asian countries. Again, in upcoming times other countries are going to be affected with virus attack or mutual war, so we have to depend on our own production. Our handicraft raw ingredients are eco-friendly which abstain from polluting the environment. It will be a great opportunity for our crafts and artisans if we can promote our beautiful yet eco-friendly products to the whole world.

With time our handicraft industry will grow and we will need more human resource for it and we can incorporate our youth, men and women into handcrafting. Thus we can ensure earning and eradicate unemployment problem from Bangladesh. In order to create a population who are skillful enough to create updated handicrafts to meet up with the demands we need training to create skill set and patronization from the Government of Bangladesh. For example we can take a look on Aarong which is known both nationally and internationally for its handicrafts products.

In this era of internet and technology alongside Aarong other small entrepreneurs are also operating their businesses of handcrafting. The results are more satisfactory than ever as foreigners are becoming more and more interested in our crafts. Surveys said that for the last few years our crafting market is making a pleasant growth as more foreigners and tourists are taking interest. As fraudulence is very common and can happen with any customer in online we have to keep our business transparent as well as our government need to give special attention over online handcrafting businesses and permit only the registered ones.

National Crafts Council of Bangladesh (NCCB) is also working hard to get the attention of the world towards our art, craft and culture. They initiated and participated in several national and international exhibitions. Bangladesh Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation is also working for the betterment of art. Another important problem is, our minimum economically stable people do not want to spend a good price for artistic products. So, proper pricing, research labs and skill development institutions for handcrafting is a must.

In a lot of lacking, there is a good thing that our young generation values and cherishes native crafts and willing to pay higher amount for it but most of them are not financially stable. So, in future when they will be financially stable they are going to be the most loyal customer. Our artisans also need to be more creative and innovative to attract more people into these. More importantly, the government needs to ensure that handicraft workers are getting enough help and encouragement to continue the production.

Another important thing is decentralization, as other areas are not getting enough attention. If we look carefully, we will see that only the small entrepreneurs from Dhaka city are active in online businesses but the rural ones are not. For that reason many origins are unknown. It is high time that they should come out of their shells to show the world the true face of nature. For making it real, the government should take steps to encourage them in coming forward through technology. Also special training about how to control their online businesses need to be kept.

During nine months (July-March) of Fiscal Year 2017-2018, export earnings from handicrafts fetched USD 12.46 million, registering a growth of 17.11 percent, from USD 10.64 million during the same period of the previous fiscal year (2016-17). When SMEs across the country will work together further results will be more fruitful for our economy.

It is good news that our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina personally thinks that when our every house will become an industry, nobody will be able to stop our economic growth. Handcrafting is offering us such an opportunity to our nation and our people to change their fate. So, we should grab it and try to change the fate of our economy.

(The writer is a student of the Department of Marketing, Jahangirnagar University.)