48-year-old Minati Samantaray rolls strands of sabai grass into each other, fastening them with coloured threads. Layer upon layer builds to form a plethora of objects that vary from bowls and vases to storage containers and even wall art.
Sabai grass, a perennial plant, is indigenous to Odisha and West Bengal. Locally called babuii, its sturdy, sustainable and dyeable qualities make for the ideal natural fibre. The sun-dried strands are braided into ropes for direct sale or woven into functional products by artisans.
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It’s fondly referred to as the money plant amongst local weaver communities. But for Minati, it’s more than a steady source of income.
“Being able to support my family financially gives me a say in the family decisions, and boosts my confidence,” says the self-taught artisan from Baliapal, Odisha.
The master weaver began her journey nearly two decades ago, making storage vessels for her home. An enterprising spirit led to small orders and gradually grew to a full-fledged profession.
Today, Minati is a master weaver at a local social enterprise. She continues to evolve her craft via workshops by contemporary brands/designers like Nagpur-based House of Ekam.
Minati is optimistic about Indian crafts winning their due place in modern homes globally. It’s what motivates her to keep weaving her magic, she concludes.
See more of Minati Samantaray’s work at House of Ekam.
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Images: House of Ekam