2012 saw a government approved and funded project being undertaken in Goa (by the College of Home Science) for the revival of the Kunbi, an ignored tribal weave that originated in India’s favourite beach destination.
The traditional red and white checked sarees worn by the fisherfolk women disappeared during the Portuguese rule when the dressing styles underwent a considerable change.
I’ve even heard stories of looms being burnt down during the fight for independence in the late 1950s when the tribals wove the kunbis as a sign of rebellion.
Revival of this weave has been slow and marred with trouble. The design samples were sourced from the adivasis themselves and from Baburao Tilve, one of the last weavers of the Kunbi. 3 designs received approval- the authentic small checks, the authentic big checks and a contemporary design. The sarees thus created were used for workshops and lecture demonstrations and saw limited exposure and received little attention. The College had of course, woven the Wendell Rodericks collection of the Kunbi.
With #100sareepact sarees were in vogue again.Talks of revival were rife because suddenly women wanted to begin a collection of the different weaves in India.
One group – Kai Thari, concentrating on handloom weaves, took it upon themselves to revive the Kunbi in all it’s glory. Spearheaded by Sumita Paiand Savitha Suri, the remarkable fact about this initiative is that it is probably the country’s first crowd-funded initiative for textile revival.
Spoorthi was launched in November 2016. If handloom must be made a viable pursuit for the weaver, then demand had to be forthcoming. And it was. We placed our orders and Savitha and her team meticulously coordinated the entire operation. Sarees were woven against an order only.
Here I am in my Kunbi – large checks & stripes. Wrapped in a legacy of the past, happy that the revival project has made our heritage come alive.
Befitting then that I wore my Kunbi to celebrate Kasturi Aunty’s birthday, a woman who I admire for her strength and wisdom.
Kasturi aunty practices yoga, cooks fabulous sambhar, and is mother and grandmother to two more women I call friends.
Hers is the house that my kids go to if they find their own locked and their mother is late getting home.
Savitha, Sumi and to everyone who worked on this project, from all of us, thank you.

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