Basket weavers in a fix as plastic trumps bamboo


Traditional basket weavers of Honnali have been suffering losses due to the increasing use of cheaper, plastic baskets

Bangalore, April 09, 2018: A traditional basket weaving community in Honnali, Karnataka is facing losses and seeing their art form dying out because of the increasing popularity of cheaper, more durable plastic made baskets.

Ajay Medar, 44, is part of the Medara community or traditional basket weavers who are still continuing with their profession. He has been weaving baskets since he was 12 but, is reluctant to pass on the knowledge of his trade to his three children since he feels that the art form is losing importance and demand over the years.  “With customers preferring plastic materials over the bamboo ones, our business has been suffering for a few years now. There is no need for my children to learn this; they are better off doing something else,” he said.

Ajay and his family used to make anywhere between Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 a month some four years ago, which has been reduced by half in the present times claimed Ajay.

People belonging to the community feel that the profession is slowly dying as a result of availability to more durable cheaper products.

Yashodamma, the lady who has been elected to head the community in Honnali, said that the traditional baskets are not as durable as the plastic ones and hence people prefer buying those.

“Only about five or six families in the whole taluk are still engaged in the profession,” said Narayan S Sharmakappa, 66, another member of the community.“When looked at closely, the art of basket weaving appears to be almost mechanical in nature. However, it takes a lot of skills and years of practice to attain the level of perfection that we showcase,” said Narayan.

Savitriamma, Ajay’s mother says that it takes up to three days to make one of the bigger baskets.

Ganeshsanka who sells his baskets right next to Ajay’s shop said that he has seen a declining demand over the years and the efforts are not worth the amount of money they get per basket. He said that he has been working as a construction labourer who is presently engaged in building toilets and does basket making as a side job since it pays very little.

Honnali taluk in Karnataka’s Davangere district is the home to about 20 families belonging to the Medara community, most of who have shifted from their traditional profession and are now working as petty laborers or farm help.