By Kimberly M Grimes, Owner of Made by Hand International Cooperative
A lifelong dream came true in March when my husband and I had the opportunity to visit India. Our most important, thus first stop, after 21-hours of travel was to visit the women of MarketPlace. We thought that we knew more or less what to expect, but to say we were surprised doesn’t do justice to our visit.
Let me explain. Marco and I own a Fair Trade shop in Delaware and have worked with “impoverished” peoples throughout the world for over 30 years. (I put that in quotes because while the people may lack material resources, they certainly are not impoverished in spirit or heart.) An anthropologist and folk musician, we love to witness the process from creation to completion of handcrafted goods and traditional compositions in whatever form they make take.
Significant to this story, we have sold MarketPlace clothes for thirty-some years after first meeting Pushpika at a conference. Impressed by what she and her sister, Lalita Monteiro had accomplished in so few years, we knew their organization would continue to do great things. Since 1996, we have followed MarketPlace stories and shared them with our customers. So, you can imagine our excitement to finally arrive in Mumbai to meet the artisans and to see the action in person.
Indian hospitality is famous, and the entire team at MarketPlace is no different. So warmly were we welcomed, fed, and chauffeured. Our visits to the cooperatives resulted in delightful conversations that taught us more in a few days than one could learn in a classroom in years (and I say this as a retired professor!). Marco and I can now describe the extremely complicated process of batiking and block printing fabrics, and understand the multitude of steps – measuring, cutting, stitching, embroidering, button-making – to create their gorgeous clothing. We can see and hear their work. It will never leave either of us. And while we are grateful for that knowledge, it is not the whole story.
The artistic creations and social programs of MarketPlace speak for themselves. What I tried to find words for (and can’t adequately) is the feeling that totally encapsulates you when you are in the presence of greatness. I’m sure the women would laugh at that statement, but this feeling, this incredible feeling, entered our souls that is impossible to forget.
To bear witness to women embodying their potential, to experience their joy of hope; to recognize the power of change, is an immeasurable gift the people of MarketPlace gave to us. We are beyond grateful to have shared time with them.
Now after another 21-hour journey home, we are honored to see their creations in our shop. To offer and wear living history – the link of ancient traditions with modern designs and moreover, the changes from oppressive social structures to freedom and dignity for all – is a privilege. I ask everyone to close your eyes and take a moment to feel the love, the wonder, and the positive energy sewn into your MarketPlace jacket or shirt – it radiates from the cloth into your hands. All you have to do is feel it.
Energizing, uplifting, transformative – the people of MarketPlace.