The term “Dhakai Jamdani”, which implies that there are other regions where this variety of muslin is made, is unfounded because greater Dhaka’s geographical location and climate are what gives the fabric its unique characteristics, said a Brac University teacher.
So a Veranasi Jamdani being in existence cannot possibly be claimed, added Dr Abdus Samad while presenting a talk on “Jamdani: History and Heritage” on the campus on Tuesday (22 October 2019).
The Department of English and Humanities (ENH) organised the event as part of its ENH Seminar Series. The speaker Dr Samad is also an assistant professor of the Department of History at Jagannath University.
The 200 year-old tradition of artistic and sophisticated craftsmanship for creating Jamdanis are exclusively possessed by Dhaka’s weavers who have passed down the knowledge through generations solely by word of mouth, said Dr Samad.
Every Jamdani requires the effort of a group of people, each of whom carries out a specific task in the production process, all by hand and manually operated tools, said the researcher.
There are some basic layouts which weavers start off with but in the absence of blueprints and steadfast rules, motifs come into existence during the weaving process, meaning each Jamdani bears the potential of being a one-off piece, he said.
Each Jamdani takes on an average at least one week to create while those with dense motifs take a maximum of three months, said Dr Samad.
The heritage textile received UNESCO’s citation in 2013 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and National GI Certification in 2016 while the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation is keeping records of motifs and providing financial assistance to weavers and skills development training.
However, future generations are opting for other professions as middlemen and big brands continue to eat away most of the profits, he said.
Professor Firdous Azim spoke of weavers she met during a recent Jamdani Festival 2019 who shared that the need to import cotton was a major barrier to the craft.
Jamdani is not only a garment but also a piece of art, embodying Bangalees’ emotions and reflecting the country’s culture and heritage which weavers highly prioritise and the love of which helps them persevere, she said.