"Our rallis are handmade from the heart."
Naina Valasai is a member of Lila Handicrafts, based in Sindh, Pakistan. For 10 years, the women’s cooperative has produced ralli quilts and other textiles embroidered in the Sindhi tradition. Today, over 200 artists participate.
“Designs for rallis have been handed down from our mothers for as long as we can remember,” Naina says. It is estimated that the ralli quilt has been prized in Pakistan for thousands of years, serving traditionally as a dowry item.
The cooperative has made a big difference for participants’ families, as well as for the broader community. “Women, who might otherwise complete only unpaid work at home, are now able to contribute to their families’ incomes,” Naina explains. “We can afford to send our children to school, and we can buy the food ourselves.”
Cotton is used to make the ralli quilts, and silk thread for the embroidery. It might take up to three months to complete one of the quilts, which showcase dozens of brilliant, finely-cut patches stitched onto a traditionally white background. Most designs are inspired by flowers, but some address everyday objects, such as milk churns or palm leaves. The colors of the ralli quilts are based on the seven colors of the satrangi color scheme: red, yellow, white, black, green, blue, and purple. “We like the bright colors,” Naina says.
One of the biggest triumphs of the cooperative is that it has proven to the women of Sindh that their art can create financial opportunities. Naina explains that the revival of the tradition of making ralli quilts offers women a livelihood based in the home. Naina hopes that many thousands of women will be able to participate in the years to come.
“We want our customers to know,” she says, “that their rallis are made exclusively for them.”