The Quilts of India is a showcase of some of the best.
The ‘Quilts of India’ exhibition, presented by the Crafts Council of India as part of its Golden Jubilee year, takes one along a captivating journey. The exhibition is a ‘moveable feast’ of handcrafted quilts from West Bengal, the Kutch region of Gujarat and Karnataka, each with its unique craft traditions, embroidery skills, local sensitivity to design and colour and history.
The collage enthrals with its many flavours. From West Bengal come the faintly fragrant silk ‘Balaposh’ quilts which also double as elegant shawls, Kantha ones with embroidered surfaces holding together hundreds of scrap cloth pieces and the historic Satgaon quilts with bold figurative embroidery. The sheer exuberance of Kutch tribal embroidery, mirror work and block prints comes together in quilts from Meghwal while Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra’s compelling pieces are a fusion of pattern darning, mirror work and cross stitch, overlaid with quilting stitches and borders of Kangura patchwork.
Lending a bold touch are Ilkal exhibits with red-green body set off by turmeric red border and a Kuchqamanan masterpiece featuring a tree of life surrounded by peacocks. And then there are Dr. Ismail Khatri’s quilts featuring rare old ajrakh motifs in glorious colours.
Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, and sons Sufian Khatri and Razzak Khatri have specially created ajrakh quilts for the exhibition. “Some are made of organic cotton with motifs which go back more than a thousand years,” says Sufian.
Sakhawat Hussain Khan is the only karigar left in West Bengal today of the silk ‘Balaposh’ quilts used by Mughal aristocracy and the elite of today. With its typically contrasting borders, the Balaposh quilt is made of silk and wafts the sweet fragrance of attar sprinkled on the cotton between two layers of silk cloth. The historic ’Balaposh’ quilts along with specially made Satgaon quilts made in the 17th century for Portuguese clients are on view here.
The patch worked quilts of Kutch and Karnataka present a melange of block printed pieces, embroidery, mirror work and shells. Artisan Ramu Devaraj, who will be present at the exhibition, comes from a paramparik Banni embroidery family. He uses natural dye cotton for his creations.
The Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra works with Lambani women to use their traditional embroidery, mirror craft and shells.
Equally charming are the Ralli ni Rani quilts made by traditional makers using waste patches in a seamless blend of tradition and abstraction.
The Kantha quilts lend a lyrical touch. These are morphed out of patch-worked scraps stitched together by thousands of West Bengal’s rural women artisans. The meticulous artistry and harmonious use of colours transforms rags into extraordinary works of art.
The Quilts of India exhibition is on view at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road, from June 11-14, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.