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Safiyabai Muttwa

Interview Summary

Safiya, of the Muttwa community, considers herself to be a vastly experienced embroiderer. Of embroidery, Safiya believes that there must be around forty separate Muttwa designs including all of the smaller ones. Out of these, chopad, pakko, kachchho, muko, bawriyo, and kharek are the popular ones. Safiya believes that the scope of her craft is therefore extremely large; simple pieces costing between 100 and 500 rupees can be made, right through to more complex 50,000-rupee works. The simple ones are for ordinary use, while complex embroidered and mirror-work pieces are used as showpieces. In recent times, embroidered pieces for bags and mobile phone covers have been particularly popular. Other common items are buttwa (a small handbag) and patches for dresses. Threads and cotton cloth for completing the embroidery are brought from Bhuj.

In her early days in the craft, Safiya sometimes struggled to makes ends meet and often did embroidery until midnight just to earn fifty rupees for a day’s work. Her days of struggle were over when she joined with the NGO Shrujan as an agent. Thereafter, doing needlework for Shrujan or outsourcing the same to other women in the villages on commission made her self-sufficient. Out of that she managed to build her own spacious bhunga (circular house). Safiya’s paternal aunt Foflibai is actively connected with Shrujan and employs around four hundred to five hundred Muttwa females for needlework. They are also working with some other NGOs, but Safiya strongly feels that their connection with Shrujan is the most consistent and workable.

Safiya has two daughters, one aged ten and one aged two. Her eldest daughter is studying and has begun doing embroidery as a hobby. At one time, Safiya had fifteen girls working under her and many tourists from India and outside have visited her. Though she has not won any awards, her story has been featured in some magazines. She is also a proficient mud work artist and her house is beautifully decorated with exotic mud art motifs. Her husband Mitha, who has passed standard 10, works in a factory for Acrosoft as a supervisor. Mitha and Safiya have decorated their house with mud work together and if Mitha had not have joined the factory, the two of them had planned to set up a mud work business.

Her father Ali Akbar was an amateur doctor, known as a hakim and her grandfather Gulbeg was a sarpanch, or the head of the village. He was respected as a wise village elder by the people of several villages including Dhordo, Patgar, Panwari, Shinadi and Mithiar Andhia situated in close proximity to each other. Gulbeg’s towering and friendly personality also impressed many. Safiya told us that many generations of her maternal family are well respected in the area for their good education. Even today, visitors often come to the family to seek guidance.