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Leaf 'n' Grass, an Exhibition, Sale and Demonstration of Eco Friendly Handmade Products of Bengal

Leaf ‘n’ Grass Echoes Message of a Greener and Better World

Going Green isn’t about a product, it is about a process. It is an ephemeral phenomenon that requires one to become friendly to nature and in the process, friendly to oneself. It involves exploring the intricate details of God’s creations, and using that knowledge of protects them. The words of Robert Swan more than fit in here,

“The Greatest Threat to Our Planet is the Belief that someone else Will Save it”

Eco friendly or Green products are a manifestation of our distant dream to do away with carbon footprints. Their production, use and disposal does nothing or very little to damage the environment. Naturally, the embrace of such a potential ‘Green Economy’ has created a demand of ‘Green Skills’.
Go Green Mission, launched in December 2015, aims to leverage this global trend to promote handicrafts of West Bengal supporting the large craft fraternity of West Bengal, sustain their green skills, and promote a green economy for the state. Sitalpati, Madurkathi, Sal leaves, Sabai grass are being used to make a range of innovative and diversified products which are being promoted under the mission.

Leaf ‘n’ Grass, held at Akhra@Baitanik, Kolkata, was hosted as a part of the Go Green Mission for three days starting 10th June, 2016; it showcased demonstration, exhibition and sale of Eco Friendly Handmade products of Water Hyacinth, Sal Leaf, Sabai Grass, Madurkathi and Recycled Handmade Paper. 

#GoGreenMission #banglanatakdotcom

Sal Leaves
Forest fringe communities gather in good numbers to attend trainings on Sal leaf plate moulding and stitching. This modification in the finished product increases the market value of the plates and the income generated by the locals’ increases manifold. They unite into Self Help Groups and work better; thus only 1 representative from a group of 5 joins the training at a time. We are presently working with about 14000 women. 

Sal leaves, obtained locally are stitched using the conventional tailoring machine. Three stitched plates are placed one above the other and put in the Moulding machine, which gives them firmness and are better accepted for competitive use in the market. The final stage is that of packaging with different set counts for different purposes. A Sal Leaf plate making process ideally requires as many as 3 people, thus rendering an efficient process in terms of workforce as well.

 #Sal Leaves #GoGreenMission
The ‘Weaving Dream’ Hub of Madurkathi is in Purba & Paschim Medinipur, about 140 kms from Kolkata. The raw material, Madurkathi grass is found is abundance in the alluvial plains of Medinipur. Stalks from the grass are dried, cleaned and split into a number of strips, usually, 4-8 strips. The strips are made thinner to obtain a finer end product.  After cleaning the inner tissue of the stalk, the reeds are soaked in water; after which they are dyed and cut into appropriate sizes. It is then that they are woven in the loop to obtain the desired product. A finishing touch is given by the cutting of the stalk edges and binding the edge of the product with coloured clothes. A Madurkathi product can take 2 days to a month and a half depending on the intricacy of work. We are working with about 4000 Madurkathi artists presently.

#Madurkathi #GoGreenMission 
Handmade Paper
Paper can be produced from a diverse range of raw materials – old newspapers, banana leaves, flax, sun hemp, and ramie among others. A demonstration using an old newspaper elucidated the process. The paper is soaked in water for a sufficiently long duration of time. The water-drenched paper is churned in a mixer or any alternate churning device to produce a pulp. The obtained pulp is immersed in a tub of water so as to form a fluid. The fluid is sieved through a net and kept for drying. This is the rate determining step, and the final handmade paper is obtained in roughly about 24 hours. The more time devoted for drying, more compact is the paper. In some cases, such as banana and ramie, the paper is bleached to ensure utility. Handmade papers are used in as book covers, writing pads, notebook, for paintings, folders as well as innovative products like handmade paper bags, etc.

Nirupama Handmade Papers not only produces these but also work with the mission of motivating people for a greener lifestyle through recycling and frequently conduct workshops to teach the technique.

Water Hyacinth
Water Hyacinth is a vigorous growing aquatic weed is rich in Nitrogen content making it a potent bio fuel source. It is useful in treating industrial waste water and capable removing arsenic from contaminated water. It is also a commonly used fodder and fertilizer.

After the plant is acquired, it is stacked together. The stem is extracted and left for drying for a period of 7-10 days. It is split into halves and fibre is obtained from within and thrown away. What remains is a flat material which is pasted on brown paper to obtain the product. Dyes and frames are also used for colouring and shaping purposes respectively.

A plethora of products can be made with Water Hyacinth, including frames, folders, posters, slip-boxes, pen stands, writing pads, jewellery boxes and the list goes on!

Sabai Grass
A naturally and abundantly obtained fibre, especially in the forest areas, it has been long nurtured as a craft by the indigenous communities of the forest fringe areas. Sabai grass has given an avenue to the rural to expand their horizons. In older days, the grass was used in limited proportions such as in rope-making. However, with the advent of new techniques and the greater importance to green products, its use has diversified to various craft items.

The grass, once taken, is wound together into ropes. These ropes are known for their high tensile strength and durability. The grass could also be wound in different patterns to obtain different utility products such as door mats, hats, and tea coasters. 

The event was very well received as visitors poured in great numbers. A number of schools in the vicinity were invited as an endeavour to promote the social and cultural message among young minds, and the students witnessed the demonstrations with great zeal and fascination. Folk concerts took place on each of the 3 days of the exhibition in which folk artists such as Lalu Fakir, Tirtha Bhattacharjee, and Sumanta Das Baul gave performances par excellence.

Sumanta Das Baul


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