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Coonoor-based IndianYards™  works with rural and tribal women in the Nilgiris to make patchwork quilts and cotton bags. But as their business took a turn for the worse during the pandemic, they turned to making face masks. These artisans embroider Toda motifs—native to the Nilgiris—on their cotton masks. “When the lockdown was imposed in March, the district administration reached out to us to make face masks for the local policemen and sanitation workers,” says Suhas Ramegowda, co-founder of Indian Yards. “We quickly got into action and have now expanded to retail supply.” Continue reading...

A two-month stay in rural India inspired Sunita Suhas and her husband to wrap up their city life and move to the Nilgiris. That’s when they realised that there are a lot of women raring to do much more with their lives, they just need that extra nudge and the right platform to do so. In 2018, they started Indian Yards, a social enterprise running a livelihood programme for women from rural and tribal communities. Continue reading...

Coonoor-based Indian Yards is run by Suhas Ramegowda and Sunita Suhas. In 2017, they gave up their urban lifestyle in Bengaluru and moved to the Nilgiris for a better quality of life. They bought a piece of land, spent time farming, and worked in the fields alongside tribes.

“During this time, we realised that women in the community wanted to do much more with their lives. Mostly, they were homemakers with an interest in sewing, who didn’t have the platform to convert their skills into a livelihood opportunity. That is when we started Indian Yards, a platform through which they could express themselves,” says Suhas.

Through their livelihood programme AGAI, meaning ‘flourish’ in Tamil, they worked with 50 women from the rural and tribal communities, who became fine crafters of fabric. Continue reading...

The masks are produced by Indian Yards, Coonoor and Shalom Ooty, who are partnering with Last Forest to market the masks. While Indian Yards has been empowering more than 50 local women by training them on how to stitch articles of clothing, Shalom Ooty regularly employs over 150 Toda artisans to embroider indigenous Toda designs on bags, shawls and other items till the pandemic hit. Continue reading...

Living high up on the Nilgiri Hills for centuries now — at above 2,000 meters from sea level — the Todas are an indigenous Indian tribe, who survive solely on cattle-herding, dairy farming, and embroidery. Made by their women, Pukhoor or the Toda embroidery is marked by geometrical-patterned red and black embroidery on an off-white cotton cloth.

“Documented references to this art form go back to the 1870s,” said Sunita. “The Todas see this embroidery as their tribute to nature and even bury their dead with the Toda-embroidered cloth covering.” Continue reading...