Lavo Mandri is a traditional art of weaving mats from Goa. Once almost extinct, Banglanatak workshops are breathing life into it.
Francesca is one of the 25 women who specialise in the art of making lavo mandri in the Goan village of Avedem. The art form is indigenous to Goa and is especially made in this particular village. As the story goes, a woman who moved to Avedem from another village after marriage trained fellow residents in the form.
However, it was not a thriving art form. “When we first came to Goa in 2015, we noticed that people in this village knew how to weave the Lavo Mandri but only two women were doing it”, says Rajshree, who facilitates the training workshops conducted by Banglanatak. Today, this group of 25 women is not only reviving the traditional art of their community but also adding new touches with the help of Banglanatak.
Founded by Amitabh Bhattacharya, Banglanatak seeks to create village-based micro economies. Art and culture, and especially their revival, are at the core of its projects. Called the Art for Life (AFL) model, it encourages artist communities in their enterprises and connects them to markets and audiences. Over 10,000 families have been able to move across the poverty line over 17 years, thanks to the efforts of Banglanatak.
The project promoting lavo mandri has the same means and the same objective. The form is unique to Goa because of the raw material it uses or the lavo plant. ‘Lavo’ is a type of wild grass found in certain parts of Goa, and ‘madri’ is the Konkani word for mat.
The mat-making process is an elaborate one which involves multiple stages from procuring the grass from the forests to weaving and dyeing the mats. The group of 25 trained by Banganatak do all of this from scratch. The mats are then sold to local markets and to special markets dealing in indigenous handicrafts, and this is where Banglanatak plays a very important role. They also try to connect local artisans to a global community of artists.
Francesca, who learned the art form from her mother, now helps train the other women in her group. Banglanatak’s Art for Life approach has helped her carry forward the art of her community and even build a source of livelihood out of it.
Video by Felix Sandri, a volunteer with VV
Article by Alankrita Anand, a journalist in the VV editorial team