Translated from Kokborok by Manisha Debbarma
Storage containers and baskets are essential to every household for organisation purposes. In this context, Tripuri artisans have mastered the art of bamboo weaving and have learnt to mould it into beautiful baskets and other useful articles for home as well as outside. The tribals of Tripura use products made out of bamboo for different purposes starting from storing grains to carrying firewood on the back. All their bamboo products are well polished, clean, and beautiful.
The main reason behind their mastery over bamboo is that the indigenous people have historically lived in forests where there is a huge availability of different kinds of bamboo. Among all the various bamboo products, one of the most useful is a simple basket made to store things or to dry vegetables in the sun.
First, we need a batch of freshly cut bamboo from the grove in the forest. Keep in mind that the bamboo should be young and no older than one year. At this stage, it is green, sturdy and flexible. A good artisan can identify the best bamboo by just looking at it.
After cutting and bringing the bamboo to the workshop area, the bamboo is then split into thin strips. Before making the product, first, five bamboo strips have to be placed under the toes, each toe pressing on one strip. In this way, the preparation starts by weaving one bamboo strip and putting another one inside it. In this way, all the other bamboo strip splits are weaved into one another.
All four sides of the basket should be equal and straight. After making four sides equally, four bamboo rods are placed in X form to provide stability. Two rods are tied on the inside and the other two on the outside as you can see in the picture. After this, the basket is ready to be woven to completion.
The bamboo basket has many uses. It can be used to wash vegetables, or as a basket to store household items. We sometimes use it to dry vegetables such as pigeon peas and turmeric slices in the sun. During harvest season, the basket can be used to hold the freshly-cut paddy from the field.
At a time when plastic pollution threatens our water and soil, bamboo articles show us the way towards environment-friendly living solutions. The cost of such bamboo baskets is around Rs. 100 in a Tripuri market. This product is better than plastic and doesn’t harm our environment. In this way, indigenous talent and artistry can change and develop a lifestyle where an organic and sustainable way of living can help in the fight against pollution.
Note: The process of making a bamboo basket has been shown to us by Mr Rajkumar Debbarma. He is an artisan from Lefunga, Agartala, West Tripura.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.