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UNESCO brings recognition to Bangladeshi Jamdani sari making

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-01-18 10:50:00 – Dhaka

The UNESCO brings recognition to Bangladeshi Jamdani sari making by declaring it as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (ICHH). The UNESCO authority said that weaving is a flourishing craft these days because Jamdani saris are habitually used as the principal attire for Bengali women on special occasions in their home country or overseas. Bangladesh holds the Jamdani sari as a symbol of self-recognition, status, identity and dignity. The decision came from the agency's Cultural Organisation's Inter-Governmental Committee for the safeguard of intangible heritage in recognition of the Bangladeshi weavers.

Jamdani Saree is one of the most beautiful and practical textiles of Bengal. History, legend and tradition are woven into the fabric along with the unique patterns that make jamdani so popular. It is a handloom woven fabric made of high quality cotton called muslin and its weaving tradition is of Bengali origin. It is one of the most time-consuming and labour-intensive forms of handloom weaving.

The word Jamdani originates from Persian language. It is taken from "Jama", which means cloth and "dana" which refers to a small granule. The textile used in the weaving is rich, reflecting the historic element of textile business in Bangladesh.

Incidentally, the UNESCO heritage committee has included 14 elements on the criteria list of intangible heritage so that community traditions which reflect varied cultures can be recognised worldwide. The UNESCO acknowledges that Jamdani craft has accordingly met all the requirements for inclusion in the cultural heritage designation. Traditions can change and evolve as they are passed down through a living heritage that is continually being recreated.

Weavers of this fabric hand down their knowledge to their descendants so that the craft is safely perpetuated through generations. There is in fact a community of weavers in the country that consists of loom-dressers, dyers, spinners and experienced weavers. Together they have formed an organisation bound by unity, distinctiveness and unique character.

Continuity of weaving this sari is a source of income as well as empowerment. The ICHH Committee believes that with the recognition of Jamdani weaving occupation, the tradition and the craftspeople and organisations that work together in its preservation will be safeguarded. It has also proposed safeguarding measures like research projects, documentation, awareness-raising activities and education programmes with the involvement of the bearers of the art and national institutions.

Jamdani could be recognised so in the eye of the world,the main credit for this lies with the village weavers of Bangladesh who despite their lack of fair monetary gain, constraints of raw material supply, the exploitative middlemen, and unstable market have never given up their occupation. Now, Bangladesh will be able to register it with the WTO.

This recognition will encourage talks among various stakeholders, thus increasing co-operation among artisans and others as well as raising consciousness among members of the civil society. It will also promote women empowerment and cultural diversity because weavers, consumers, entrepreneurs, organisations and suppliers of raw materials will be motivated to work together for the development and enrichment of this tradition.

Through this recognition, Jamdani will get exposure on a global scale.

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