Limpuiru sisters' wages lone battle to establish and preserve tribal handicrafts

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Limpuiru (Left) and her youngest sister working to have the handicrafts to sale at Sangai festival
Limpuiru (Left) and her youngest sister working to have the handicrafts to sale at Sangai festival

Out of an inborn passion for designing and creating new styles in fashion-related costumes and dresses, Limpuiru Gangmei had enrolled herself in Imphal-based fashion school Blue Ocean Academy back in 2008 for a year-long course to familiarise herself with the industry and to improve her talents and knowledge. However, despite her eagerness to learn more, she unfortunately had to drop out of the institute after six months as the designing course requires sketching which she was not acquainted with.

Born in a family with four siblings at Imphal's New Checkon area, Limpuiru however opted to utilize her passion in another way which is to add innovative designs in the field of tribal handicrafts particularly related with the traditional handicrafts of the Zeliangrong community though she earnestly deals with other tribal handicrafts irrespective of ethnicity.

Optimistic and more zealous to promote tribal handicrafts, the woman in her late twenties says that she and her two sisters have been making tribal handicraft items in her own home. Ever since she ventured in the field, she had taken orders from her circle of friends and others especially. It provided financial assistance to her economically weakened family and also made use of her talents.

Recognizing the abilities, many had encouraged her to open a showroom which still remains a distant dream for the hard working woman. Emboldened but still not pragmatic, she did what she could only do for the moment which is to set up a Facebook group under the title: Limpuiru Tribal Handicrafts Collection.

A trained beautician, Limpuiru continued that she is capable of making and replicate any other tribal handicrafts outside Manipur if given a sample of the items, by anyone who wishes to employ or give her others. Additionally, being the eldest among the siblings, Limpuiru has the responsibility to finance the entire family which is facing a crunch of financial issues.

Limpuiru (Left) and her youngest sister working to have the handicrafts to sale at Sangai festival
Limpuiru (Left) and her youngest sister working to have the handicrafts to sale at Sangai festival

Limpuiru Tribal Handicraft Collections and success at Sangai 2015 festival

Never assuming or understanding how her tribal handicrafts would be received by the general public, the hard-working woman and her sisters managed to get a stall at the recently concluded Sangai festival 2015. Paying Rs 5000 for opening the stall, Limpuiru to her great surprise saw that many of the masses particularly the foreigners appreciated and bought her products.

Later, after her endeavour at the latest edition of Sangai was over, she was ecstatic over the result or rather her experiment and managed to earn a little bit of profit (around Rs 15, 000). Earlier, she had established her own Limpuiru Tribal Handicraft Collections at her own home, from the little money she had and also with the assistance of her circle of friends.

Limpuiru who eagerly waits to work harder says during the Sangai Festival, many Thai visitors who themselves had come to the largest annual festival of Manipur to set up stalls had purchased her products for some Rs 5 to 6 K as well as they were appreciative of her homemade designs.

Claiming she never expected her endeavour related with tribal handicrafts would be a good enterprise, Limpuiru said the idea to set up a stall at Sangai festival was experimental and she unlike many of her counterparts sold her products (tribal handicrafts) at the same rate which cost her to make one item without charging a single penny more.

Inspired, she at once, wanted her private entrepreneurship to improve for two reasons, one of which was to genuinely promote and preserve tribal handicrafts and another to help her sustain herself and her family economically. However, a realistic Limpuiru understood the necessity of having a permanent shop of her own at some convenient place of Imphal. But, her inability to deposit money has restricted her to confine herself within the premise of her own residence which has just three rooms including the kitchen.

On the other hand, she has to deal with frequent illness of her mother who suffers from hypertension and low blood pressure. Unfortunately, she claims, having to deal with three operations in a year alone, has given her more pressure to concentrate fully on her dream.

Limpuiru's tribal handicrafts at Hornbill festival
Limpuiru's tribal handicrafts at Hornbill festival

The Kolkata connection

Limpuiru says materials required for making the traditional tribal handicrafts are procured from certain Marwari-run shops located at "Alu Galli" area for the last three years. She says she takes the materials in terms of kilograms and that whenever she and her sisters visit the shops they are warmly welcomed. However, the businessman whenever enquired about where they get their materials remains silent and tells her that they themselves get the items through a second person.

However, Limpuiru has reasons enough to believe that they are procured from Kolkata though she has never been able to establish it exactly. She earnestly desire to make wholesale deals directly from Kolkata but cannot do so as it will be of tremendous economical assistance to her. Infact, whenever, any of her colleagues or friends, visits Kolkata she pleads them to scan certain areas of markets to find any of such material but as of now it has remained not productive.

Though not internet-savvy, the woman who has taken the responsibility to look after her family says she did find similar materials were available in the state of Rajasthan but it happens to be more costlier and beyond her capacity to make business connection with them. Nevertheless, she has no doubt that the materials she procures now for making her tribal handicrafts through the "second person" is acquired from Kolkata.

Also trained in henna designing, Limpuiru's sole target is to expand her business and establish a small shop at some prominent area of Imphal and wishes to get more orders so as to fulfil her sole dream.

Limpuiru's tribal handicrafts at Hornbill festival
Limpuiru's tribal handicrafts at Hornbill festival

Hornbill festival

Following her little achievement, Limpuiru and her sisters stayed long hours, day and night, to head for Kohima and attend the recently concluded Hornbill festival. Her only objective and dream was to see if her enterprise and hard work would yield better result at the capital of the Nagaland state.

Unfortunately, she claims it was disappointing for her endeavour and that she had lost the little gain she had from Sangai festival, which she had invested for the Hornbill festival.

* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for
The writer is Imphal correspondent of the Assam-based newspaper Asomiya Pratidin, and a cultural enthusiast and can be contacted at phanjching(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on December 29, 2015.

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