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Tales of Sabala

Tales of Sabala

About Craft:

The district of Bijapur and its centre, the ancient city of Vijayapura is inhabited by a community known by locals as Lambani or Banjara and who have a unique tradition of embroidery and jewellery making and other handicrafts, known as Banjara Art. The community is historically nomadic and hence called ‘Banjara’s’ which is derived from the Sanskrit word “Vana Chara”, meaning wanderers of the jungle. Their tribe belief to have descended from Roma gypsies of Europe who travelled across the rugged mountains of Afghanistan into the desert of Rajasthan in north India thousands of years ago before migrating down into southern states which includes Karnataka. Music, dance and storytelling remain central to their culture, as do their fine textiles made from natural materials and dyes. Theirs is a distinctive style of dressing characterised by vibrant colours, ornate embroidery and range of embellishments.

Banjara art has been inherited from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. As they lived in the forests, readymade clothes were not available so they used old clothes and created new ones through patchwork and quilt techniques. That is when their craft originated. About 80 stitches and techniques are part of the embroidery. The traditional Lambani embroideries are designed for a nomadic life style, featuring geometric, floral and animal motifs. The combinations of stitches and mirror work are worked out extra ordinarily with vibrant colour, making the design strikingly different.

Though the community is a treasure of rich information, culture, tradition, Indian ethos but they have their own inherited beleaguered problems in the society. They live mostly in the inaccessible or remotely situated undulating terrain and have been far behind the mainstream of economic development. This socio economically and educationally lagging community, even today is lacking in basic infrastructure needs. Such is the case in Karnataka, especially in the districts like Gulburga, Shimoga, Bijapur, Chitradurga and Bellary, where the Lambani population is very high. Sabala, a voluntary organization set up in 1986, is working with Lambanis in Bijapur and has succeeded in developing a sustainable livelihoods model for around 350 ultra poor households by utilizing their traditional skills while developing products for modern markets


About the organization:

Empowerment through skill training – since 1998 Sabala provides opportunities for over 200 women to learn skills and translate these skills into productive activities that generate income. The revival of the traditional Lambani and Kasuti crafts is a main concern of Sabala Handicrafts. Through organizing and educating the community Sabala has worked to bring structural changes and improve the situation of Lambani and other underprivileged communities in 60 villages of 3 talukas of Bijapur district. Sabala worked with a value chain approach wherein it looked at each component of the supply chain and developed standardized production process to ensure timeliness and high quality. The initiative has led to revival of a traditional craft in modern society, reduction of migration and settlement of the nomadic tribe in a respectable and dignified manner. Currently, the Craft based Livelihood Initiative is a full fledged business enterprise which has sustained in the market for more than twenty years without any convention funding support. Today the Lambani tribe is recognized as an artisan group due to our efforts. The program has thus shifted the community’s social identity and preserved its cultural identity. Through producing high quality products, Sabala aims to promote sustainable livelihoods among ultra poor communities.

Sabala is also a member of the World Fair Trade Organization and is recognized for its fair trade standards. The products created at Sabala are traditionally hand made, high quality, and take heed to social responsibility. Sabala Organization has impacted positively in the lives of 23,000 people in the last 30 years. Besides Sabala Handicrafts it has also established a bank, which is a reserve bank licenced all women bank, a school and recently started to promote Handicraft Tourism at Sabala Heritage Home.

Here are some sabala products on :

Handmade Jewelery:

Bags and Totes :


Oxydized Anklets: