Chikan embroidery, a delicate and refined hand embroidery technique rooted in Lucknow, India, has a rich heritage that spans centuries. This blog post explores the origins of Chikankari, the significant role of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Lucknow, and how Alamwar collaborates with SEWA to support this traditional craft.
The Origins of Chikankari:
Chikankari’s origins can be traced back to ancient times, with references to fine flowered muslin worn by Indians as early as the third century B.C. The art form flourished in East Bengal during the Mughal era and eventually made its way to Lucknow in the 18th century, where it gained refinement and elegance.
The Essence of Lucknow’s Culture:
Lucknow, known as the cultural capital of North India, embodies aesthetics, refinement, and graciousness. Chikankari, also known as “Hand Embroidery,” is a testament to the city’s artistic heritage. Interestingly, during its early years, Chikankari was predominantly practiced by male master craftsmen.
Unfortunately, Chikankari faced a decline after the decline of the Nawabs and the diminishing patronage of the landowners. It became a low-paid commercial activity, and women, particularly those in purdah (seclusion), became the primary artisans. This led to their exploitation by middlemen who took advantage of their vulnerable circumstances.
The Empowering Journey of SEWA, Lucknow:
To address the plight of Chikan artisans, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was established in Lucknow in 1984. SEWA aims to empower Chikan workers and eliminate exploitation by creating a sustainable production system and providing direct access to fair markets. It has achieved significant objectives such as ensuring fair wages, developing new markets, empowering workers, providing training programs, revitalizing the craft, and advocating for social benefits.
Alamwar’s Collaboration with SEWA:
Alamwar, a renowned brand in embroidered textiles, has partnered with SEWA to promote Chikan embroidery and support women artisans. This collaboration provides regular work at fair wages, empowering the artisans economically and preserving this exquisite craft. Mahalaqua Kirmani has played a vital role in coordinating the job work outsourced to this subsidiary of SEWA Lucknow.
Chikan embroidery holds a significant place in the cultural tapestry of Lucknow, and efforts by organizations like SEWA and collaborations with brands like Alamwar ensure its preservation and revival.