Monday, December 4, 2023

A walkabout at India’s Handicrafts and Gifts Fair

Without doubt, the Indian Handicraft and Gift Fair (IHGF) is one of the most popular events on the calendar in New Delhi.

With around 360 exhibitors present this year, the fair is a crowd puller for people from all over the world, many of them potential buyers who get an opportunity to meet on a one on one basis with the exhibitors to talk export business.

This year marks the 33rd year the show has been running without a break and it is growing stronger as more and more people come to attend.

Organized by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH), the fair has been labeled as a show window of Indian handicrafts among all the leading buyers around the world.

The main objective of the fair is to showcase to the world the entire range of handicrafts and gifts from India.

The fair is held two times a year, in the Spring and Autumn.

The fair’s organizers have also come up with an excellent marketing strategy and invited over ten journalists from different parts of the world, such as Botswana, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Russia, among others. This gives the fair publicity worldwide.

My walk around the fair begins and I am taken aback by the exhibition. It is nothing like I have ever experienced before, a totally new and exciting environment filled with a lot of exciting handicrafts to see.

The handicrafts range from photo frames, beautifully adorned with buttons, glitter, different coloured fabrics, jewellery, ornaments, household d├®cor, scarfs, bags, mats, curtains, statues and many more.

The beauty of these magnificent works of art is that they are all handmade, although some have been infused with already made products to achieve the end results.

After an hour, the tour around the stalls is still on and I continue to be blown away by what I see. Although tired I ignore that and focus on feasting my eye on the works of art displayed around in the stalls.

As I continued, I learn to appreciate art even more and realize art is not restricted to anything; there is no standard definition to it. I realize art starts from the way you tie your hair in the morning to the way you shake someone’s hand and the way you make use of the available material around you to make something solid at the end of the day. Some of the pieces at the fair have been made from recycled material, some from discarded old metal and yet all have managed to be turned into something usable and good looking.

My walk around eventually led me to meet one Motswana woman who told me she attends the fair annually as she is a business woman who imports some handicrafts, mainly jewellery, and sells it in Botswana.

She also tells me that last year she had the chance of meeting Kagiso Sekokonyane, a journalist from home who had attended. Our conversation felt so heartwarming because I was able to speak Setswana and interact with someone from home. A magical moment indeed so far away from home.

Later on in the day, I hijacked fellow South African journalist, Aakash Bramadeo’s interview with one of India’s prominent business man involved with the export of handicrafts and costume jewellery, Robert Vadra.

Vadra talked of fashion on a wider note and highlighted that he likes the African inspired jewellery that has a fusion with the Indian jewellery.

He added that he takes note of and likes the multi-coloured beaded necklaces, which are a product of that fusion.

He says he also likes the fusion of African prints incorporated with Indian prints to come up with one piece. He further states that being in the exporting industry, he looks into the requirements of the country he is exporting to, to make sure that the clients get the best and that the material used for the products do not cause skin irritations.

Vadra further stated that his company provides employment in the villages as the natural products used for making products are obtained there. He also adds that whenever they can, they use the craft skills of the people from the villages.

After the interview it is back to exploring more stalls that I had not visited yet. So the walk continues and the experience is a bitter sweet one.

Some stall owners have an attitude problem and are quite rude, refusing any association with journalists, even a picture or an interview on their products. Some are kind enough and invite you into their stalls and explain the work it takes to come up with the handicrafts.

The walk around took me to the exhibition where a lot of the local people, mostly men, stared at me in a manner that made me feel uncomfortable and out of place.

On noticing this, I conversed with fellow journalist Melissa Gonzalez who tells me the men are looking because possibly they are admiring me. She states she saw it in the eyes of some of them though I am not convinced as some looks are far from those of admiration because some are really hostile. On the verge of tears and feeling out of place, I decided to woman up and face those stares.

My plan worked perfectly fine as I started to look back at those who were staring at me and I enjoyed exploring the fair and having a look at all the marvelous handicrafts it had to offer.

However, it’s a pity that I did not get to purchase anything as there is no sale at the fair, maybe on the last day of the fair but it’s not certain. The exhibitors say they sell only through orders, meaning they export.


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