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Silk Traditions from Bangladesh

Silk Traditions from Bangladesh

My favorite place to perch is mid-way down the rocky cliff, cupped in some half-cave, watching the surf pound the coast, erupt, subside, and churn again. How the sea retreats back into itself, I marvel, is a force as strong as the waves that storm the rocks, and in that mesmerizing retreat and charge I lose myself. I lived on the coast of Maine many lifetimes ago when I cut my way into adulthood, and it was there on those rocks that I penned madly in my journal until a self out of all those opposing energies formed. Years later, I fell in love with my husband on the coast of Maine, sharing my solitary perch with him; my journal writing turned into a life-long conversation.  

160 years ago, in what is now Bangladesh, indigo planters put local peasants in a chokehold by leasing farmland with sky-high interest rates that led to insurmountable debt passed down from one generation to the next with no recourse; until, at last, the famous Indigo Revolt, led by peaceful peasants, began to turn the situation around. The abuses of indigo farming became an ugly memory; an ocean of peasants withdrew from it altogether.  

Until today.  Now, women from the poorest of the poor are rising up again as fierce as an advancing wave, reclaiming their indigo heritage, not as a debt that imprisons them but as a creative force by which to rise into financial self-sufficiency. Cultivating silk, dyeing it with natural indigo, and then covering it in tiny stitches for which they are famously known - this is the work of freedom. 3000 indigo farmers are now at work for themselves; 200 artisans and dyers. These women serve on the decision-making board of their cooperatives; with profits they are initiating clean water reform, sanitation efforts, health care, and schools for their children.

In a few days, I return to Maine to help bring Ibu to that powerful coast for the first time. I will perch on the rocks as I haven't for some time to feel the surge of waves crashing home, retreating, gathering force and advancing like a sea of indigo, Like the women of Bangladesh, wearing down old rock-solid patterns, carving out their place in the family of things. 

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

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