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Pāṭa patha, the Jute path (1)

In order to enjoy our comfortable and genuine espadrilles we need some fabrics that don’t appear just out of the blue. Instead, they go through a long journey, and we would like to pay tribute to it with a series of articles about the winding paths they take and the people who make it happen.

I travelled to Bangladesh during the peak of the monsoon season with my mind set on learning first-hand about the Jute harvest, the fibre that replaced hemp in the production of espadrilles.

On my first trip, this search took me to the Matlab area, SouthWest of Dhaka. Here are plenty of golden fibre fields, a plant belonging to the Malvaceae family called Corchorus Capsularis and known as Pāṭa in Bengali.

La Manual Alpargatera
La Manual Alpargatera
(Corchorus_capsularis.png) Jute plant drawing (Corchorus capsularis)

This plant grows in flooded areas with such a high amount of water that makes them unsuitable for growing most crops and turns jute cultivation into a cover crop until the soil is ready to plant rice again.

When we entered the area and right from the road, we could see what seemed like jute fibre curtains everywhere. They were spread intended to dry under the monsoon rain with tipi-like bundles of thin branches in between them. These bundles are made of the jute core that is left after the fibres have been stripped, and here they are waiting to be put to another use, because from jute nothing is wasted. —In some Wikipedia versions we can see that these stems are described as “jute fibres during the process”, but this is precisely the jute part without the fibres—.

La Manual Alpargatera

Drying the jute fibres

As the rain ceased to pour for a moment, we decided to take our first stop. It was at a place where they were washing the fibres in the river. This is a hard and spectacular work because of the dimensional plasticity of the scene and the hypnotic movements taking part in it. From across the road I was able to record and take pictures of the curled up fibre during the washing process in the river’s stream.

La Manual Alpargatera
La Manual Alpargatera
Washing jute fibres in the river
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