Maya Emporium TM is an endeavour of the Australian company Aei4eiA. Aei4eiA started its journey in the year 2011. It primarily started as a socio-economic research firm. From the very beginning, we had a division that we call- Australia-India Wing (AIW). The primary role of the AIW is to help foster trade and bilateral relationship between Australia and India. While conducting one of our researches on the Indian migrants in Australia, we were asked by an eminent Australian as to how to ensure and encourage more migrant Indian women to participate in activities, get involved in decision making at various levels and contribute to their adopted country’s economic and social development. It made us ponder as to how much is known about the potential of this latent force of women of Indian origin living in Australia, majority in their prime working age and the number which is growing at a rapid pace.
We further researched along the line, following the trail and came up with our initiative “Maya: Indian Women Through Indian Art”. Maya brought together Women artists from India, Women Social entrepreneur in Australia, Authorities (Indo-Aus relations) , Corporate houses and Charities to co-share responsibilities and benefits. This eco-system focused initiative not only promoted women’s economic independence and supported women’s empowerment but also promoted knowledge, culture exchange, tourism and trade between Australia and India.
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Two of our significant works included Dots 2 Art: Exploring Indian Madhubani Art From The Backyard Of Australian Dot Painting and Experience The First Flush @ Darjeeling – Appreciating The Nature / Nurture. As the name suggest, through Dots 2 Art, we were able to connect the dots with reference to the possible confluence of two ancient and totemic art forms- Indian Madhubani art and Australian Aboriginal Dot painting. Interestingly, Mithila or Madubani paintings is essentially a women-dominated art form. These breathtakingly beautiful folk paintings were initiated by women who were always confined to four walls of their houses and did not have any role to play in any day-to-day decision making. From helping break the monotony of their lives, these paintings gradually became their collective voices of expressions and a medium of communication- of untold stories and latent emotions which were passed from one generation to the next. As noted French author, art lover and documentary filmmaker Yves Véquaud wrote, "For three thousand years perhaps, the women of Mithila- and only the women- have painted the gods and goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon, in the form of prayer. It is not exaggeration to affirm that the art of Mithila is the expression of the most authentic Indian civilisation".
On the other hand, it came to the forefront that Australia and India share many commonalities- one is its love for tea. Tea is well blended into both the cultures. Historically, tea has been one of India's principal agricultural exports to Australia. Much of Australia’s tea is imported from India, which is one of the largest tea producers in the world. And, what about Darjeeling tea? The finest teas in the world, universally acknowledged as the 'Champagne of Teas', which even Her Royal Highness the Queen of England is fond of. Grown at the foothills of the Himalayas in the mountain city of Darjeeling, in the Indian state of West Bengal, the unique agro-climatic conditions contributed to the distinctive flavours and aroma of the tea. It is also to be highlighted that women form the majority of tea pluckers in Darjeeling, who plays a very significant role in the sustainability of Indian tea industry. Their painstaking produce is nothing short of a work or art. The sight of a mother (a tea-picker) holding a 'tea-leaf' while at the same time carrying her child in her pouch is a sight- that is quite common. And that, in a way exemplifies the nature/nurture bond.
Interestingly, in both the above cases, women played a leading role and we decided to take this bold step to translate our research into action, by bringing in the goodness of both authentic Darjeeling tea and Indian art, directly to Australia. Through these we attempted to address, what may have been looked at as Common themes, but certainly with Certain actions…
Darjeeling tea, is a rare, coveted and exotically flavoured, is grown only in Darjeeling, India and cannot be grown, manufactured or replicated anywhere else in the world. The unique agro-climatic condition of the region contributes to its distinctive flavour and aroma and is protected through Geographical Indication (GI). However, according to official sources, each year, around 10 million kg of tea are grown in 87 tea gardens spread over 17,500 hectares of land but over 40 million Kg teas are sold worldwide as Darjeeling. Our endeavour has been to bring to Australia authentic, pure (not blends), premium quality, single origin, single estate, packed at source, Darjeeling tea through established trade channel. In order to ascertain the authenticity of products, Government of India has patented Darjeeling tea, with the Darjeeling logo as the seal of authenticity and awards licenses to companies that sell 100% Pure Darjeeling Tea. We are glad to note that we are one of the very few (if not the only) companies in Australia to have been issued the licence (DJ/HOOL/064/22082017/AUS).
Similarly, we work with the Indian artists from multiple regions of India to directly source authentic, exquisite, region-specific arts (some of the art forms are even 3000 or more years old). Thus, not only connecting the economies (Australia-India) by promoting trade, knowledge exchange and people-to-people links but also in their overall sustainable development. We believe, offering the finer works of art (as explained above), in an integrated fashion, keeping sustainable development in mind, is locally first of its kind.
Dr. Jayantee Mukherjee Saha, Founder and Director of Aei4eiA says, “Each time we were asked a question, we took a step back, thought about it, and presented a solution with sustainable development in mind. We are pretty clear in our thought processes and believe that for sustainable development to take place, economic empowerment of women, be it in Australia or India, has to be at the forefront. We were never in haste with flash-and-go methods to prove our points but, painstakingly worked through the points to make things happen.
It has been truly a stimulating journey thus far and at every step, we came across interesting challenges to endure. We always reminded ourselves that challenges, in a way, is helping us to raise our bar and no matter what, there would be light at the other side of the channel. So, here we are- Welcome to Maya EmporiumTM, an exclusive Darjeeling tea and Indian art gallery for finer things in life…”