India has millions of craftsmen who are engaged in traditional crafts that symbolize the cultural identity of the Indian civilization. But these art forms are threatened by mechanized mass production, which is killing human creativity. One such endangered art form is the art of carpet weaving, which had been on a steady decline due to systemic malpractices and mechanization. NK Chaudhary, founder, Jaipur Rugs Company felt an urgent need to set up an entity that worked relentlessly to preserve this art from fading away.
Recently, Jaipur Rugs launched the Freedom Manchaha collection designed and woven by inmates from Jaipur, Dausa, and Bikaner Central jails. Each area rug in the Freedom Manchaha collection has a unique design language. The inmates have imbued them with designs inspired by their life and the world around them. You can see things like clous, jaalis, windows, trees et al woven as design elements into these handmade rugs. They are all expressions of the weaver’s individuality and creativity.
Manchaha, a Hindi word popular in Rajasthan’s weaving community, means “expression of my heart”, and is a sustainable development initiative where weavers get to design their own rug for the first time in Rajasthan. It taps into the untamed fashion in rural India by nurturing their creative potential and transforms a community from exploitation to empowerment. Each rug, hand-made with more than 200,000 knots, is the story of its creator – with emotions, dreams, and personality. The colour palette of this collection is as unique as its design. The weavers are given batches of surplus yarn with the freedom to choose from those whatever they like.
"When we first had an opportunity to work with inmates, there was this hesitation as well as the curiosity of what shape this would take. At first, it was humbling to hear many of their personal life stories. Some of them were deep tragedies, some were simply caught in the maze of the law, and some harbour deep regrets their actions done knowingly or unknowingly. It was a great learning experience and I am glad we were able to create a mode of creative expression and livelihood. In their life behind those walls, they have somewhere they can come to heal. It is to celebrate the freedom to express creativity that we have chosen to launch this collection on Republic day." says Kavita Chaudhary, design director, Jaipur Rugs.
This initiative is a peek into the labyrinth called human behavior. It has taught us that given the right platform and opportunity and a little faith anyone can transform their life. The zeal to learn, grown, and most importantly heal by being a part of something meaningful is there in each individual.
Jaipur Rugs is working with close to 100 inmates across Jaipur Central Jail, Bikaner Central Jail, and Dausa Central Jail to provide them meaningful and fulfilling work by teaching them the art of carpet weaving. Jaipur Rugs feels that the capacity to imagine brings motivation, which then adds to the prestige and prosperity of individuals if nurtured appropriately.
“The Freedom Manchaha collection is embedded with stories from inmate’s past, present and dreams of the future. It is a collection full of hope and an example of how an idea can create true social value. The collection is about our zeal to look for creativity in the most uncommon places and nurture it. By using weaving as a mode of creative expression we are highlighting the healing capabilities of providing meaningful and dignified work to people,” says Yogesh Chaudhary, director, Jaipur Rugs.
The overall Manchaha initiative allows rural men and women with, at best, the absolute basics of education, have stunned the world with original designs matching professional calibre. This social innovation has uniquely sustained the dying art of hand-knotting by renewing its passion, through unfiltered expression. It has targeted economic transformation through sustainable income and instilling confidence. Each area rug is also made using leftover hand-spun yarn – wool & bamboo silk, which reduces industry-wide wastage that had previously no solution and makes its color palette as unique as its design. It is a remarkable example of sustainable production – reusing and revival from waste, the problem becoming its own solution.
The initiative has now bent bars and reached out to prisoners in Jaipur and Bikaner, Freedom Manchaha. The capacity to imagine motivates, and adds to prestige and prosperity if nurtured appropriately. This changes the destructive cycle of crime through poverty and illiteracy and creates a society where equality, justice, and peace prevail.
Conceptualized by Kavita Chaudhary (Design Director, Jaipur Rugs), the Manchaha initiative has won eight prestigious global design awards such as the German Design Award, EDIDA (ELLE DECOR Design Award)Carpet Design Award, iF Design Award, Kyoorius Design Award, and European Product Design Award, all while going up against mega design houses and billion-dollar product companies from across the globe.
Empowerment to a discriminated rural India, empowerment to prisoners, sustaining the dying art of hand-knotting through passion, sustainable development all woven together into one-of-a-kind rug designs that can connect hearts the world over.;