One Sunday afternoon, two years ago, I read about Abdul Hamid Abdul Razzak - a man in Aurangabad, India, who carried the proud lineage of Himroo weaving in his family blood; Himroo being one of the finest textiles of India. The finest fabric of the Deccan in fact, wrote Marco Polo, in his pursuits of treasure - which I find a compelling recommendation.
Brought to the region in the 13th century from Persia, under Mughal rule, the sumptuous silk brocade stayed in serious demand until the late 19th century, such that 2500 complicated looms thundered through this city supplying nobility the cloth they most desired.
Now, Hamid bhai scrambles for a living as a rickshaw driver. All the Himroo looms have stopped their rumbling. The British invasion saturated the market with cheap mill-made fabrics. Factories made mediocre knock-offs. Hamid bhai and his two brothers are the only ones left, of all the families of weavers, who still know Himroo at all. In their possession are merely scraps, saved from the days when their grandfather led the looms.
An Indian social enterprise, tracking such textile traditions on the verge of extinction, discover Hamid bhai and offer their support for the brothers to lead a revival of Himroo. When I first learn of this in Hand/Eyemagazine, they are just beginning to dust off and crank up the looms, hopeful and ambitious. I am besotted.
I write this team in India. How's your beautiful project going, I ask, and, by the way, might you include women in your revival of this remarkable cloth, previously the domain of men? I hear back immediately. Five students have come on board; four of them are women.
Once we see the blue Himroo on their loom, the Ibu team is sold. And will you work with us to craft an Ibu jacket for our allies? LoomKatha humbly reminds us, we are still new at this, just beginning. And so we work together step by step, over two years, back and forth, sampling and re-sampling until we have a product worthy of you.
In the fine, complex weave of Himroo, you see imperfections, you see the hand of the weavers, the history of this storied cloth, you see Hamid bhai rising to his proud lineage, a country regaining its soul. You feel the hand that makes beauty real, and human. You feel hope in the making.
This is the Ibu movement at work.
Proud to be a part ~
Susan Hull Walker