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In its pursuit of soft diplomacy through crafts, Delhi’s popular indigenous crafts destination, Dilli Haat, is hosting an Egyptian crafts stall along with a training workshop. Inaugurated by Khaled El Bakly, the Egyptian ambassador to India, on Thursday, the 15-day exchange of ideas, crafts and products is a great way “to show off and showcase how we work with our craftspeople and how crafts can be brought to mainstream attention", says Jaya Jaitly, the founder of Dilli Haat and president of the Dastkari Haat Samiti that has organized the India-Egypt Crafts and Skills Exchange.

Bringing artisans, fashion designers and brand leaders from other countries for idea exchanges or luxury conferences is nothing new for Indians enthusiastic about opening up vital debates on global culture. The Fashion Design Council of India too has been working on such creative collaborations—within which designers from countries like Japan, the Netherlands and Australia have been invited to display their work here, creating collections hand in hand with Indian experts. While those collaborations often find mention in the fashion pages of publications, more rooted and accessible joint ventures on ethnic crafts sometimes escape our notice.

“The first country we invited to participate was Pakistan," says Jaitly, adding that craftsmen from countries like South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have contributed to brainstorming on ideas of creation, sustenance and sale of ethnic handmade goods that always tell a cultural story.

It was in early 2013, while exhibiting Akshara—a Dastkari Haat Samiti project led by Jaitly on Indian arts, crafts and textiles focusing on the different regional scripts—in Egypt, that the idea of inviting artisans from that country became a possibility. Aided by well-known Egyptian development economist Heba Handoussa, the Dastkari Haat Samiti was connected with Elhamy Naguib, a designer and painter who is at the helm of the Egypt stall at Dilli Haat and will be personally present for interactions for around a week. While Handoussa chose the artisans representing her country, Jaitly says she chose the crafts that should be brought for sale, knowing the consumer inclinations in India.

The Dastkari Haat Samiti has invited select Indian crafts experts and designers to interact with Naguib and his team. Among them is young Delhi designer Gaurav Jai Gupta, known for his exploration of handwoven textiles.

For shoppers keen on a larger slice of the world in their homes and wardrobes, the product list is varied. Besides Egyptian craft goods like Nagada scarves, jewellery, Khayameya pillowcases, inlaid wooden products, leather goods, alabaster vases and camel-bone items, the stall is selling embroidered pieces from Nubia and the familiar Egyptian papyrus drawings. Shandawil Telli, a fabric art of Egypt that is similar to Indian mukaish work—where metal is used to embellish yards of net and other fabric—is also on sale.

If you follow Egyptian politics and the multiple challenges the country, its economy and its people are currently facing, you may just find—upon looking—a craft object that tells the tale of a perplexed nation. A piece that represents an ancient society caught in modern flux.

The India-Egypt Crafts and Skills Exchange, 11am-8pm, is on till 15 January at Dilli Haat, opposite the INA market, in Delhi. The price of products ranges from 200-10,000.

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