Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bangladesh Day 3: Famine and Feast

I slept like a rock for 5 hours on my rock hard bed. But I felt like a queen, or that child's book character "Fancy Nancy," under my chartreuse mosquito net and pink striped sheets. Eventually the haunting but beautiful morning call to prayer combined with a cock crowing started the day.

We were welcomed again with a profusion of flowers at Keya Palm. The artisans here work mostly with palm branch leaves folding them into stars (that I've seen in my friends' homes around Christmas time) or weaving journal covers. Like Bagdha and Jobarpar Enterprises yesterday, they are experiencing a "crisis of orders" as their big ticket customers (The Body Shop and 10,000 Villages) have scaled way back. But I had a little speech prepared about how many large American companies are going out of business and our president is working on that, but there are still many small businesses like me who are alive and want to hopefully help them with many small orders and I would tell all my business friends. At least it was something. But, truthfully, they need to develop their product offering. There are only so many little origami stars the market can take. They enjoyed watching me struggle through folding a star.

From Keya we made our way on foot down a dirt path along a small pond where a few enterprising fisherman were bringing up baskets of sludge and tiny 2 inch fish. The banks were teeming with small children who were given the task of sorting fish from sludge and it looked like desperate work. I was feeling reluctant about our next stop. Beautiful saris, richly painted walls and gracious hosts had kept me going so far. But the pressure of this role I had been given as "the American buyer" was wearing me thin. It was a pleasure to find Biborton Handmade Paper Project a large and bustling circle of workshops. They welcomed us warmly. But they did not request a speech. The artisans couldn't have cared less that we were there. They had more important work to do. The American economy may be flagging, but Japan and Italy are picking up the slack. It was wonderful to see so much creative activity. I will let Amanda's photos speak for themselves. go to Bangladesh Day 4
Gluing and cutting.
The water hyacinth (pink flower) is an abundant weed. They make paper pulp from the stems.
Raw Jute fiber, another abundant local resource, before it's pulped.
Dipping the paper.
Squeezing the water out.
Drying on steam heated forms. They can produce more than by sun drying. But it is hot work.
Adding flowers to wet paper.
Drying in the sun.
Everything is done by hand, even folding bags. They don't want to get machines for simple tasks because it's more desirable to provide the employment.
Block Printing

The final product will be sent to Italy.


  1. Blessings on your continued journey. Thank you for sharing it with us! Kimberly

  2. Thank you for posting. This is beautiful. I can't wait to hear more about your experience there!

  3. Annika, I know I'm a bit late on my comment here, but I love this post. They get to keep as many people as possible employed since they sort of skipped modernity and the industrial revolution. And since they're choosing not to buy the machines they aren't pumping toxins into the air to keep the machines running. I like it! Wish I would have been there seeing the people and sharing the experiences (and Daal) with you! Sounds like the trip was fabulous!

  4. I am new to your blog and find it fascinating. I forwarded it to a spirtual center fascilitated by a group of nuns.