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Weaving Kerang: A Personal Narrative

 

I live in Sisaput village with my daughter and granddaughter. My husband died many years ago and I receive three hundred rupees from the government as financial support. My daughter is also a widow. She lives with me because she had nowhere to go after her husband’s death. I am too old, thus, I am dependent on my daughter for everything. She goes to the dongor (field) and manages all the work on her own from cultivating to selling crops in the haat (market). We sustain on agriculture; dhana (paddy), mandia (ragi), sua (local crop) are stored for self-consumption and the rest is sold in the haat.

 

I am a weaver and used to weave kerang. I wove my last piece of kerang ten years ago. The process of going to the deep forest and collecting plants to make cloth is a long and tedious one. The local plants for kerang are jatidor and kudoidor.  Only the bark is used for making kerang. Both the plants have medicinal properties. Bark is removed using the katuri (small sickle-shaped tool). The inner part of the skin is removed carefully, and it is soaked and boiled for several hours. It is beaten with wood to soften the texture of fibre.

 

The length of fibre is small and discontinuous, thus we take ginara (spindle-shaped tool), and with the help of our fingers and thighs we twist the threads to achieve a certain length. The hand spun thread is winded on a local tool called unokda prior to weaving and made into small balls (badi). Colourful threads, ranga suta, in red and blue colours are bought from the local haat to combine with kerang threads. The pattern of kerang and dimension of each piece is measured by hand. All the kerangs looks almost similar. Vertical stripes in red, blue and white run parallel on the loom. Two women sit together to weave one kerang on opposite sides and their feet rest inside the small pit. Threads are inserted horizontally and beaten for compactness with the help of an animal’s horn.

 

It takes three to four days to make one piece of kerang after the loom is fixed. The kerang weaving process is a part of our cultural activity for all the Gadaba women. I weaved my own cloths and wore them for many years. My old age and eyesight problem both discouraged me from weaving. I stopped weaving and other women who used to weave in our village also stopped weaving slowly. The last remains of my kerang threads are still there.

 

Nobody carried the tradition forward. The younger generation did not show any interest in learning weaving. Now, there is no requirement of kerang because nobody wants to weave kerang. My daughter and other women in our community do not want to wear kerang any more. The culture has changed. Local sarees bought from the haat are long, so, women are folding and knotting them on the shoulder just like kerang. I am also wearing a lungi purchased from the local market to cover my upper part along with kerang woven by me. People in earlier days used to weave and believed in making self-prepared cloth. Now, nobody has the time, energy and patience to weave kerang.

 

Recently I came to know women are wearing kerang and performing dimsa (our local dance) in the local Ankadeli Bondo market near Malkangiri. I was pleased to know that our Gadaba women are showing interest in kerang and our local dimsa dance. Later I came to know it is just a short performance for the tourists and they are negotiating money after that. Gadabas knew the traditional knowledge of weaving. It was our legacy. Now kerang will remain only as a memory with Gadabas.