‘Desi Oon’, an online exhibition com sale will open in December 2020 with its spotlight on the indigenous wool of India. Desi Oon features a beautiful collection of products created by India’s wool artisans, the experiences of pastoral herders, and perspectives of civil society members, the exhibition is complemented by a film festival on pastoralism.

India boasts a rich diversity of indigenous wool and woollens, created by an ecosystem of herders, hand spinners, weavers, felters and dyers. The Desi Oon story, through the journey of the wool fibre, traces the movement of sheep; the uniqueness of each breed; gorgeous diversity of traditional products and the wonderful skill of wool artisans.

As Neelkanth Mama, an octogenarian herder, puts it, “Herding sheep is our dharma, more than a mere occupation. It has been entrusted upon us by the divine.”

In the past two decades, however, procurement the procurement of wool has fallen drastically which has led to a significant drop in secondary incomes for the herders. India’s wool requirements are met largely by imported wool, a commercial production system which has affected the indigenous economy.

In this ‘new normal’, Desi Oon shows how pastoralists and artisans inhabit time and space, work and leisure; and the possibilities of resilience they hold in a world endangered by climate change. If revived, the local wool creative industry can engage millions in rural India, and lead a global shift towards green production.

The show seeks to connect pastoralists and artisans with designers and some of India’s best craft organizations trying to revive an entire value chain of indigenous wool. Each partnering organization highlights a particular sheep breed — the Black Deccani Sheep by Mitan and Earthen Tunes, Harsil sheep by Avani and Peoli, Chokla by Rangsutra, Patanwadi by Khamir, and the indigenized Gaddi-Merino sheep of Himachal Pradesh by Aana Jana and Kullvi Whims.

Presented by Centre for Pastoralism, which is also engaged in revitalizing the indigenous wool economy and culture, the Desi Oon exhibition and the film festival are amongst the many initiatives that took root in the pastures of the Living Lightly project – a travelling exhibition on the lands, lives, and livelihoods of the Indian Pastoralists.

The accompanying film festival, curated by Srishti Films, launches December 19. It kickstarts with a keynote address by eminent filmmaker Stanzin Dorjai whose film ‘Shepherdess of the Glaciers’ is among the award-winning documentaries and feature films being screened at the festival.

Scheduled are panel discussions on pressing pastoral-related issues – from livelihoods to displacement, with panellists that are community members, activists, academics and student filmmakers.

“Pastoralism is an intelligent production system with no equal. It takes uncertainty as an input to clothe & feed humans and nurture agricultural fields.” – Gopi Krishna, noted civil society participant and member of Mitan.