We are always on the lookout for new handwoven textiles, hunting for fabric that most people have not seen before. After seeing a photo of a textile on a travel blog we started researching the state of Mizoram in North East India. Very little information was available online but we were fascinated by the textiles we had seen in the photo. We decided the only way to see more was to go there.
Mizoram is the state that borders both Bangladesh and Myanmar. While it is officially India the local population speak their local language and their appearance is closer to Burmese than Indian. From Kolkata we flew to the capital, Aizawl, where we stayed. The town is built on the side of hill with narrow roads and buildings defying gravity.
The village of Thenzawl was a 4 hour drive around twisty, winding roads that wound up through the mountains and down to ravines. The scenery was spectacular. We were above the clouds passing through villages perched on the edge of the cliff.
It was obvious when we reached the village of Thenzawl because weaving looms were seen at the entrance to people’s houses and beautiful textiles were hanging in their windows and in a few shops in the centre of the village.
We wandered from door-to-door meeting with the women weaving their textiles. We were welcomed into their homes and they were thrilled that we were interested in their craft. Each house had a small array of textiles to show us. We were amazed at the quality and bought as many pieces as possible. See our textiles page for a description of the weaving style.
The day we arrived in India was also the day that the currency had been demonetised. All 500 and 1000 rupee notes were removed from circulation and could no longer be traded. The country was in the midst of a currency crisis where no one had cash. ATM machines had people queueing for days and a limit of 2000 rupee (about USD$30) per person per day was in place. We queued for hours only to reach the front of a line when the ATM machine ran out of cash. It was a very stressful time for most people in India. Fortunately we were able to borrow some cash from a friend in Kolkata. Without this loan we would not have been able to purchase textiles from individual households.
One of the shops in the village contacted the hotel in Aizawl where we were staying. They asked the hotel if, upon our return to Aizawl, we could pay them with a credit card and once the cash crisis was over the hotel would pay their friend who would then take the cash to the women in the village. They were trusting us to pay the hotel and trusting the hotel to pay their friend and trusting their friends to bring the money to the village. The potential sale of so many textiles meant everyone was prepared to help each other. It was very special to see the support between everyone. We left Thenzawl with more than 30 pieces of cloth.