Welcome to Rihaa...
We are Bahaar Jain and Kevin Wilson, and we founded Rihaa in 2020. As students of Medicine and Engineering respectively, we met in 2011 in Pune. We were brought together by our mutual love for art, culture, history and science, and have remained friends ever since. We would often spend our Sunday afternoons chatting about the myriad artforms of India over bottles of cheap wine, discussing what we could do to salvage our dying heritage. As we went on to pursue our careers in public health and AI, we felt a void in our lives, one that we knew could only be filled by the generation of a creative outlet that would set us free from the shackles of everyday humdrum life and also help us to meet our long time goal of supporting Indian crafts. This internal turmoil led to the formation of Rihaa, a store that aims to bring you high quality home decor products, made through fair trade with the artisans, with designs rooted in tradition and folklore. We would also like Rihaa to become a platform for meaningful discussions on the issues that matter the most to us. We would therefore, be delighted for you to share your ideas and stories on our blog.
We, at Rihaa firmly believe that crafts are an important part of our collective heritage and living history. However, since the dawn of colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, artisans were forced to compete with cheaper machine-made products. Historically this has caused many of them to move to agriculture or to other jobs, with their craft being side-lined as a mere hobby. Post Independence, this slow heartbreaking process has continued. Those who decided to brave it out and stick to the craft are often unaware of the market and end up exploited by middle men and designers. To these artisans the romance of the craft is lost, for them it has almost become a form of labour.
Today we often find ourselves in the bittersweet situation of dealing with the last surviving generation adept at a particular craft. Well-meaning parents refuse to teach their children the skills that have been passed down to them through generations. A girl in Kutch prefers learning tailoring in a neighbouring town instead of the traditional embroidery of her tribe. A weaver in Badami refuses to teach his son how to work the handloom and sends him to Chennai to become a software engineer. A Chikankari embroiderer of Barabunki barely manages to feed her children during the lockdown of 2020, instead tying a warm wet dupatta over her stomach to stave off hunger while asleep. As artists ourselves, we feel very deeply for them and would like to script for our community new stories of hope which give them a reason to continue practising their traditional skills, while at the same time freeing themselves from the shackles of modern markets.
At Rihaa we are dedicated to fair pricing and strive to source directly from independent artisans, NGOs and Trade Facilitation Centres wherever possible. We hope that Rihaa comes to stand for what it means, a symbol of liberation for the artisans of India, as indeed for us. Join us on our journey across the country, as we meticulously research and travel to help salvage our heritage, and bring it to your homes.
Get in touch with us to contribute to our blog