I discovered Okhai by sheer luck on Facebook. Followed by a couple of conversations with Pooja from Okhai over telephone. It did not take too long for me to fall in love their products and the values and inspirations behind the brand.
“The Okhamandal region of Gujarat has been home to many tribal cultures and nourished them from the very earliest periods of history. The stark monotony of the arid landscapes in this region is relieved by the bright shades in the handicrafts made by the tribal women belonging to tribes like the Rabaris, Vaghers and Ahirs.
The most prominent tribe here, the Rabaris, are a semi-nomadic tribe, known for their survival and adaptation in arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan – pursuing a pre-agrarian, pastoral lifestyle found mainly in the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat. The Rabaris today lead a quaint, colorful and rugged lifestyle, which finds a manifestation in the embroidery and crafts made by them.
The motifs of their old world custom are replicated in the intricate embroidery patterns. The objects that they embroider highlight important events, rites and rituals and values in their lives. Rabari girls traditionally embroider blouses, skirts, veils, wall hangings, pillows, purses, etc. It is only recently that this form of art has found its way to the commercial market. The various forms of artwork of Gujarat are Appliqué, Heer Bharat, Kathi and Bead Work. Of these, the Appliqué work symbolizes the integral part of the decorative needlework done in Okhamandal. It is based on patchwork, in which pieces of colored and patterned fabric are finely cut in different sizes and shapes and sewn together on a plain background to form a composite piece.”
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What I like most about Okhai is how to empowers local women to be financially independent as well as more confident. You must listen to the following tales of empowerment by Okhai .
Laxmiben is one of the Master Cutter at Okhai and has been associated with the handicrafts project for the last 12 years. Managing a group of 20 women, she specialises in cutting and designing colour patterns
Sabhaiben is a leader in the making, who has been with Okhai for last 12 years. Her work includes organising fabric from the OST and then getting them to the Okhai centre, where kits are prepared. She then ensures that the kits reach the SHG members who work from home.
Ramiben Nangesh has been an active member of Okhai for the last 12 years — designing, cutting and stitching fabric to weave together a work of magic. She is among the 450 rural women for whom Okhai has created a livelihood.
Bharmiben ensures that every product that comes out of the centre is of excellent quality. She says, “Quality is of utmost importance at Okhai and we follow a three-step check to ensure that the fabric and its handcrafted design is done to perfection.