Reviving the craft of Malabar Hookah
How ARPO team helped to create domestic demand for the historic craft
It was for making a documentary on the Malabar Hookah that team ARPO came across the last manufacturers of the craft, which has a history of at least 300 years. Made by the Mooshari community in and around Koyilandi -- a small, yet historic port in Malabar-- the craft has been exclusively for the Middle East, especially Yemen. The vestige of the Kerala-Arab trade and cultural links, and promoted by the descendents of the Yemenis traders who settled in the Malabar coast, the craft was in its death bed, with no one making it anymore.
The last exporter Mr Hashim had given up all hope that he could sell off his Hookah stocks, which had been stuck with him ever since the pandemic began. International developments like the Russia-Ukrain war had also made the export, which the man in his seventies had been doing forever, uneconomical.
Team ARPO convinced him that there can be a domestic market, and the product needed a rebranding as a premium heritage good. We set up an instagram page to sell it, and promoted the craft online. We invited journalists to do stories on the craft and its significance. We documented the process of Hookah making, engaging an artisan for one last time. We also promoted it in the circtles of our collaborators and well-wishers.
Within a span of a few months we could help Mr Hashim sell Hookahs worth over Rs 3 lakh. The buyers included an industrialist, a celebrity author, an Ambassador, a Padmabhushan-winning designer and so on. Now we are in the process of furthering the online presence of the craft.