February 11 -- Dhaka, Bangladesh


A short (1 hour) drive from Dhaka is Manikganj. This is where one of the BRAC offices/production centers is located. We visited the blockprinting section since that's primarily what Ten Thousand Villages purchases from them. This facility also houses many other aspects of BRAC such as tailoring, ironing, sewing on beads by hand, tie-dying, and packaging. While visiting with the manager, we saw a picture with Bill Clinton in it...apparently he visited at one point. Also, outside next door was a brick factory...in Bangladesh they make bricks and then smach a lot of them to go under the cement on the roads. There was also a bus being painted...every bus was very attractive.

Dhamrai Metal Crafts

Dhamarai Metal Crafts is the work of a family living in a village not far off the main road back to Dhaka from BRAC. This Hindu village saw much prosperity during British rule because of their popular brass work and the large British market. This prosperity is evident in the building we pulled up to with amazement. Very elaborate, it's 27 rooms are now mostly empty. A university graudate and the grandson of the home's builder, Sukanta Banik wishes to start a kind of learning center to share his knowledge of the "lost-wax" method they still use. Currently, there's a little studio nearby that is used. In today's market, there's less demand for quality and more for quantity. "Lost-wax" brass is time consuming as casting requires a different wax mold be made for every piece. The wax is kept warm while molded into traditional figures using only two tools. Clay is applied around this mold creating a clay mold with holes to access the inside. Hot metal is then poured into the hole displacing all the wax. When cooled, the clay is the chipped off, cleaned and polished. On site there is a sales room. Other products besides the tradional Hindu figures have been made as Shahjahan demonstrates.
After seeing the creation of such wonderful crafts, we had a tasty meal made by Sukanta's mother. We ate traditionally, on a mat on the floor or a short stool and eating with our hands. Fresh fried bread called poori was abundant and we even got a glipmse of how they are made.

Jute Works
Our next stop on our way back to Dhaka was at a village imployed by Jute Works to make sikas and hammocks. This group was ready and willing to show us some of their sturdy homes that have been built as a result of fair purchases. Inside, there were baskets of rice and many saris on the sari racks. This group of women seemed very happy and some members of the group are second generation and have bright hope for the future.


February 3

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