Manipuri women have excelled their skills in handloom and handicrafts sector since time immemorial. This has been proven by Lourembam Bino Devi as well. She has been honoured with Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award of this year for preserving the art form of appliqué (Liba or Phiriba in Manipuri) by the Government of India.
Appliqué art is one of the most unique art forms of Manipur since ancient times as each and every pattern of the piece has its own meaning unlike any other appliqué forms found in other parts of the world.
The origin of Liba or practice of embroidery was much in vogue in Manipur by the 17th century. The artisans enjoyed the patronage of the ruling family and were conferred with honorary titles and ranks as befitting in the social hierarchy. During the reign of Bhagyachandra Maharaj, the Raas costumes were made as one of the refined works within the enclosures of the palace guild and were not exposed to the common people. The art of ‘Liba’ which is now more or less termed as Appliqué was gradually brought out from within the four wall enclosures of the palace guild during the reign of Narsingh Maharaj (1844-50A.D.) who took up steps to popularise the Raas dance among the people by encouraging people to have the Raas performed in their local mandops.
Lourembam Ongbi Bino Devi (80yrs) who hails from Singjamei Mathak Thokchom Leikai in Imphal, Manipur is one who worked tirelessly to preserve the long aged old tradition of appliqué work in fabric for the more than six decades. Bino who is the first child among five siblings was born to Thokchom Mani and Thokchom Ibemhal of Singjamei Chingamathak Thokchom Leikai in Imphal, Manipur. She studied upto eighth standard. In an exclusive interview with the Padma Shri awardee, Mrs Lourembam Ongbi Bino Devi with the writer, Bino expressed that she will pull all her efforts and energy to preserve the unique appliqué art form of Manipur. She will work as much as she can to preserve this art form till her last breath. She said that she wants the young generation to carry forward this skill to the next generation to preserve this art. This will help in preserving it step by step, from generation to generation from being threat of extinction to a popular art form of the world.
Lourembam Bino Devi learnt the Liba art form at her early age of 17 yrs from her mother-in-law Lourembam Ongbi Ibetombi, a National Awardee in Appliqué. After her marriage, her father-in-law once asked about her skills. She answered her skills on weaving, stitching, crochet and others. Bino was asked to show her skill in a small handkerchief. Then she showed it and her in laws appreciated and asked her to learn the skills of appliqué from her mother-in-law. Gradually Bino started learning this art from her mother-in-law regarding as great Guru in her life. Still at her age of 80 yrs, Bino is engaged in teaching this art to her students.
In 1970 for the first time Bino went to Delhi with her mother-in-law for attending an exhibition for seven states after her mother-in-law received National Award in 1969. Bino was asked to show her appliqué art at the exhibition. She made Thambal Macha on a handkerchief. She was well appreciated for her skill. Bino started making Monmai (pillow faces) with Rs. 75 for one piece which now costs around Rs. 1500 for one pair of Monmai. It takes almost ten days for making a pair of monmai. But as she becomes older it takes more time. The art requires only scissors, thread, needle and clothes only. The cutting is done without any drawing following the traditional knowledge of freehand making different patterns where each piece has a unique meaning. Besides traditional pillow faces, Bino makes Ningkham Samjin, Luhong Phijin, Harao Phijet, Khudol Khungup and Kangkha Asuba etc. Around 30 designs or patterns are used in this art.
Lourembam Bino Devi’s name was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 85th edition and the first Maan Ki Baat of the year 2022 on 30th January. As empowering women her name has been mentioned by Prime Minister for the Padma Shri award being honoured for her dedication in preserving the old age dying tradition of Liba of Manipur. On special mentioning of her name in Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat, the awardee expressed that she feels very happy as her work is being appreciated and recognized by the Prime Minister of our Country, Shri Narendra Modi. It gives her more ene
rgy and inspiration to work more in preserving this appliqué art. She expressed happiness that her long journey in this art has been recognized by honouring her with Padma Shri award. She also thanked Prime Minister for acknowledgement. Mrs Bino received State Award in 1996 for her product of King’s Khudol Khungup. She had participated in many exhibitions in different parts of the country like Delhi, Mysore, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Hyderabad etc. Her two students namely L. Khomei Devi and Ningthoujam Prabhabati Devi had received State award in appliqué art. Under the Guru Shiksha Parampara Scheme, the Padma Shri awardee had trained six students. Now she is serving as a craft master at an NGO called Heritage Foundation of Mankind, Sangaiprou, Manipur, since 2015.
In association with Dr. K Sobita Devi, the Secretary of the Heritage Foundation of Mankind and former Director of Art and Culture, Government of Manipur have put all efforts to train the artisans and to make them excel in this appliqué art as to preserve this dying tradition of Manipur by organizing many workshops, training and other programmes at different institutes. The team is working hard with all resources to preserve the significances and aesthetic value of this appliqué art in this modern era focusing on innovative ideas by producing daily usable items to occupy space in the local market to help the artisans financially. Dr. K. Sobita expressed her desire for inclusion of this traditional art form in the school curriculum in the art and craft subject. This will easily groom the new generation in knowing and learning this traditional art form of Manipur to the rest of the world. For popularizing this art, it can be used as school uniform logos, badges, bags etc. It is high time for the concerned authorities to put special efforts for the revival of this old aged dying tradition art form of Manipur.