Malkha stands for a decentralised, sustainable, field-to-fabric cotton textile chain, collectively owned and managed by the primary producers – the farmers, the ginners, the spinners, the dyers and the weavers.
The Malkha initiative, started in 2003, includes at present spinners, dyers and weavers engaged in understanding and evolving the practice of collective working. Once ginning is introduced, farmers and ginners will also be part of the initiative.
The idea of Malkha comes from the history of cotton cloth making in the Indian subcontinent, the history of a robust and resilient industry embedded in diverse local cultures and customs, a history stretching over millenia. A pattern of textile production that was subverted by the Industrial Revolution model that respects neither nature nor society.
The Malkha way of making cotton cloth is an alternative to the present industrial model where ghettoization of the worker and pollution of nature is the norm. Malkha is an attempt, the first in modern history, to make yarn specifically for the handloom, to rid the artisanal textile chain of its dependence on large spinning mills that distort the small-scale, village-based nature of handloom cloth making.
The Malkha process explores technology that responds to the needs of primary producers, does away with unnecessary and wasteful processes in its journey from plant to cloth, is ecologically sensible, and least damaging to the intrinsic properties of cotton.
The Malkha fabric reflects its heritage in its distinctive texture, drape and feel as the contemporary standard bearer of the Indian handwoven cotton textile tradition.
The Making of Malkha
Malkha combines thousands of years of Indian experience of cotton with modern engineering skills.
Cotton cloth made on a small scale, in dispersed locations, using locally grown cottons, was what made India the world leader in cotton textiles for thousands of years. However, the modern spinning mills and powerlooms, with their huge scale of operation, leave no scope for diverse and decentralised modes of textile production.
The Malkha process explores an alternative to the present situation where small-scale yarn-making units replace large-scale spinning mills. Thus it provides the missing link in a fully rural cotton textile industry using local raw material and local skills. It evolves a way in which both farmers and weavers benefit from each other, and in which spinning also becomes a rural occupation. It allows people to work near their homes rather than having to move to the ghettos of mill or powerloom textile hubs, thereby creating a strong link between farming and local textile production which empowers the rural society both socially and politically.
At present, there are five Malkha centres in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, more are coming up as demand for Malkha fabrics grows.
The tremendous response to Malkha is a reflection of people’s feel and appreciation for its unique qualities – the swing, the drape, the ability to breathe, to absorb, to hold colour. The Malkha process plays a big role in imparting these qualities to the fabric. By handling the delicate cotton fibres gently, by avoiding the force and violence of conventional processing, it retains the springiness of the live fibres all the way into the cloth.
Images and text copyright Malkha – http://malkha.in/
For exquisite Malkha yardage and products visit –http://www.shop.malkha.in/