The Seventeenth-century English explorer Edward Terry wrote of his go to to India: “The natives there present very a lot ingenuity of their curious manufactures, as of their silk stuff, which they most artificially weave, some very neatly mingled both with silver or gold or each…”
It’s these glowing, glistening, lustrous “silk stuffs” which might be the topic of a stunning exhibition on the Nationwide Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy in New Delhi, this month. Vayan – The Artwork of Indian Brocades is the second in a collection of small however important textile exhibitions, curated by Mayank Mansingh Kaul for the Devi Basis, in collaboration with the Nationwide Crafts Museum. Representing a interval broadly from the nineteenth century to the current, the reveals are drawn from each their collections.
Watch | Textile exhibition ‘Vayan’ in New Delhi
Getting into the exhibition, your eyes alter to a darkish black void from which step by step emerge luminous patches of radiant color. Every of the six sections highlights totally different weaving kinds from all around the nation linked by frequent visible, aesthetic and technical attributes — Banaras, after all, and Kanjeevaram, but in addition textiles from Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Central India.
Lots of the items are saris or odhnis with ornate ornamental pallavs and robust, deep colors — crimson, magenta, orange — and broad, patterned gold-edged borders. Stylised paisleys, each as finish items and as decorative konia corners, are a recurring function, as are trailing floral arabesques and stylised roses and poppies. Included are brocades utilizing advanced hand-weaving methods, resembling luxurious samites, lampas and velvets, in addition to lighter chanderis and tissues, and the now extinct gethwa strategy of Varanasi. Ingeniously designed by Reha Sodhi, one of many delights of this exhibition is that, regardless of the comparatively small house, every exhibit could be seen in isolation, and due to this fact has its personal dramatic affect.
I used to be delighted to see a celebration of my favorite, however much less identified, Paithani and Asavalli saris: their uninteresting golds, tawny pinks, mulberrys and olive greens so delicate each in color and patterning. The exhibition options a couple of putting modern items with extra summary, bolder designs, resembling a pop art-inspired gyaser, displaying the vary and flexibility of the medium.
Benefit from the ‘little dream’
The identify ‘Vayan’ is from Hindi, referring to the artwork of weaving. Recognized in India from historic instances, brocade was referred to as hiranya or material of gold in Vedic literature, whereas in Gupta instances it was generally known as puspapata, or material with woven flowers. Kimkhab is one other phrase, derived from the Persian, nonetheless usually used for Indian brocade. It has a poetic twin which means — “somewhat dream” and “woven flower” — each evocative of its intricate, dreamlike, usually floral, patterns.
These extraordinary Indian brocades, woven with silk and gold or silver thread, are characterised by their raised floral or figured motifs and designs, launched throughout weaving by the additional warp course of. This was historically executed by a nimble fingered younger boy, until Joseph Marie Jacquard’s loom and punchcards changed him within the early nineteenth century. In India although, the older strategies continued alongside for much longer.
Textile methods got here to us from all around the world, to be reworked by India’s eclectic magic into our personal distinctive indigenous traditions. Silk initially got here to India from China; Chinese language rulers forbade the export of silkworms, however they had been smuggled in (so the story goes) by Chinese language Buddhist monks within the hole shafts of their canes. India is now the world’s second largest silk producer, although China nonetheless leads the best way.
There are twenty first century echoes of this historic rivalry. At present, guardians of India’s craft traditions are up in arms on the Chinese language usurping lots of our conventional expertise. There was an outcry at South Indian silk weavers being taken to China to show Chinese language weavers the best way to weave Kanjeevaram saris, and India is flooded with shiny, inferior however cheaper Chinese language silk yarn whereas we neglect our personal mulberry silk cultivation.
Drama past the weaves
Every bit in Vayan demonstrates the totally different sides of brocade. It may be crisp and metallically shiny, or smooth and flowing with a smooth luminous sheen, terribly sensuous. The encyclopaedic rationalization for the attributes of silk — “The shimmering look for which it’s prized comes from the fibre’s triangular prism-like construction, which permits silk material to refract incoming gentle at totally different angles” — doesn’t in any respect convey its attract.
On the exhibition, a glass case with a bolt of brocade tissue scrunched into smooth, iridescent folds, fantastically illustrates that magic, simply as a three-dimensional set up (by artist Astha Butail in collaboration with Uncooked Mango) on the halfway level of the exhibition illustrates its drama.
The abilities that wove these textiles are very a lot alive; nor are the reveals uncommon archival gadgets. As I walked round, murmured voices talked about an identical piece in a marriage trousseau, or inherited from a grandmother. So, simply as brocaded silks delicately circulation and shimmer and but have a tensile energy, Vayan, too, isn’t just an ornamental window to a misplaced cultural and aesthetic previous; it’s a doorway that might open to thrilling new design futures in each trend and craft.
On view on the Nationwide Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy, New Delhi, until March 19.
The author is chairperson-founder member of Dastkar, Society for Crafts & Craftspeople.