Novel project likely to revive demand for screwpine mats

Novel project likely to revive demand for screwpine mats
An elderly woman collects screwpines for making mats.

Alappuzha: Screwpine mats were found in every Kerala home until a few decades ago. With changing lifestyles, the use of this eco-friendly mat, locally known as ‘thazha paya’, folded up and with it the traditional craftsmen who wove them gradually faded out. As demand dips for the traditional mat, the Kerala Government is rolling out a comprehensive project to give a new lease of life to the manufacture of such mats in the state. A unit for weaving ‘thazha payas’ will be opened at Krishnapuram in Alappuzha district under the project, which is part of the state’s cultural affairs' department’s efforts to preserve traditional craft skills.

The Director of the Cultural Affairs Department has written to the Tourism Department to make available the latter’s premises near cartoonist Shankar’s Museum at Krishnapuram to open the unit to produce the mats. The centre is part of the state government’s efforts to open 22 centres across the state to encourage traditional crafts. This centre will concentrate on producing screwpine mats and currently these mats are weaved at a temporary unit at Kunthirapanthi in Kollam district where training is also imparted on matmaking.

The Krishnapuram centre will have the latest facilities for the manufacture of these long-established mats. The government has earmarked lands at Thekkady in Idukki district and Wayanad to open centres top promote traditional crafts. Such centres will function as a unit producing the traditional handicrafts of a locality.

The project, which will be implemented in four phases in three years, will provide jobs to 40 to 50 people.

The products will be sourced and distributed to permanent sale points at tourism centers, and also be sold through various exhibitions. They will also be sold through the Sargalaya Arts and Crafts Village at Iringal in Vadakara district, and the income will be distributed among the weavers.

The products will also be displayed at the Surajkund International Crafts Mela in Haryana. The conventional handicrafts will also be marketed through online websites and a permanent gallery will be opened to exhibit ‘thazha’-based products.

Facilities will be put in place for the tourists to get a ringside view of manufacture of ‘thazha’-based items. Traditional art forms will also be performed at the centre.

Screwpine tree is called kaitha in Malayalam.