The Ministry of Tribal Affairs ties up with designer Ritu Beri for promoting tribal handlooms

Divya A

A Naga shawl from Tribes India

In March this year, designer Ritu Beri was appointed as the Cultural Ambassador of Uzbekistan in India. This was an attempt to recognise her contribution towards bringing the two countries together through her collection ‘Ferghana Fantasy’, which merged Uzbek ikat with Indian khadi. Last week, she came on board the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to promote Indian tribal crafts and culture. Tribes India, a chain of 117 retail stores, established by TRIFED, has tied up with Ritu Beri Designs as the chief design consultant.

Beri, who combines Indian fabrics with western sensibilities, will be guiding over 1.5 lakh tribal master craftsmen associated with TRIFED to develop globally relevant handlooms and handicrafts. “Arts and crafts come naturally to those from tribal areas. They just need to be supported to package right and design their products to reach a global audience,” says Beri, who has proposed a wide range of initiatives to mainstream tribal art forms. These include creating a tribal museum, promoting a wall art festival, fashion shows, remodelling tribal products, an annual tribal design competition and a round table with her organisation, The Luxury League, to promote tribal art.

Pravir Krishna, MD of TRIFED, says, “The partnership is going to be lifelong.” He added that some collaborative collections will also emerge, possibly from the Northeast since the Ministry is focussing on the region. She will eventually work in tribal areas and give direct input to artisans on weaves, motifs, design, pricing and packaging. Beri has already selected some products to be displayed in her show, A showcase of the same will be held at The Taj Village Goa, starting December 20. This will include Naga shawls, stoles, dhokra handicraft items, jewellery and hair accessories. “Plans are also afoot to set up a tribal museum in Delhi to exhibit, document and archive tribal heritage. The next step is to fine-tune the Tribes India flagship store in Delhi,” she says.

According to Beri, the idea is to present Indian tribal art in a way that it’s saleable and market savvy. The profit will go directly to the artisans and not the middlemen. “Each product is custom-made and bespoke; people abroad consider it luxury. They just need some design inputs and some marketing edge,” she says.