Fashion and accessory designer Abhishek Pratap Singh has had many firsts since he started working for Sabar tribals in Jharkhand in 2010. After doing fashion designing from Wigan & Leigh College, Delhi, followed by a degree in accessory designing from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, Singh has been associated with various Central and state agencies and NGOs, buyers and exporters on different kinds of projects in the field of traditional and languishing handicrafts.
“I have been working in the field of Indian handicrafts for the past 15 years and have been comprehensively working with tribal and rural artisans of India with special focus being the tribals of Jharkhand,” he says.
At present, he is in initial negotiation with Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for a project under Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries. He hopes that this will further help the Sabar tribals get a shot at a better life. Singh’s exposure to the world of handicrafts happened at NIFT and the practical experience that he gained while working on a project in quake-ravaged Gujarat changed the course of his life. “Along with a team of professors from NIFT, I went to Kutch for a rehabilitation project called the Rehabilitation of Local Craft Community.
As a part of this, we worked in 16 villages with crafts such as embroidery, pottery, metalwork and leather work. After nine months, I knew that this is what I want to do.”In 2012, Singh got a call from the Planning Commission to undertake a project in his home state, Jharkhand. “The project started at Raghunathpur in Nimdih Block of Seraikela-Kharsawan district with Sabar tribals. Sabars are one of the nine Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups of Jharkhand, and their population growth is in the negative.” What started for three months is still going on.
“In these last six years, the project which started with 50 artisans now boasts 250 of them. And if we get the right support we will turn this area into a craft cluster with close to 1,000 artisans,” he says. In 2017, one of his trained artisans, Mangal Mahali, was felicitated by the Kalanidhi Award at Surajkund Fair in Haryana. “This award is equivalent to the national award, and he was the first artisan from Jharkhand to get it,” he says. “We have also been participating in a lot of fairs this year to liquidate the stock we had and this will take us further,” he says.