A stitch in time

Shelly Jyoti brings her unique installations for an exhibition organised by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) for Gandhi Jayanti. “My canvas is Khadi,” says the Delhi-based artist. “Ajrakh printing, a 3,500 year-old technique, and fabric dyeing are my tools in my Salt March series.”

Jyoti’s installations have over the years caught the attention of people across the board. For instance, khadi is re-contextualised as a social movement in Jyoti’s ‘In my Salt: The Great March.’ “I insist on people turning their eye on Khadi as we have to support weavers in the villages.”

Jyoti studied English literature and has formal training in fashion design and clothing technology. In ‘Khadi March: Just Five Metres,’ which Jyoti curates, she will revisit Gandhian philosophy through multi-media artworks using khadi, ajrakh fibres and kantha embroidery to talk about swadeshi, swadharma and swaraj. “The exhibition is designed to be a study for those who want to understand what the khadi movement stands for, and what it has done for the contemporary sensibility,” says Deepti Navratna, Executive Director, IGNCA RCB.

Jyoti spoke to Metroplus about her passion for Khadi. Excerpts

How do you put across what the khadi movement stands for in your exhibitions?

I am exploring the idea, production and consumption of khadi as a means to connect between the urban and rural populations through various site-specific installations, artworks, spoken word poetry and a short documentary film. The exhibition speaks of how if the 40 crore urban population buys five yards of khadi, spinners, weavers and others will be empowered. By re-orienting consumer choices which directly affects the conditions of production, Gandhiji’s social reform strategies may yet provide a way forward.

Could you elaborate on the artistic collaborations with Ajrakh artisans from Kutch and West Bengal’s women artisans?

I work with ninth and tenth generation artisans from Bhuj for almost a decade. It is a great learning experience. They are very generous in sharing their techniques and processes. They enjoy the new element that I bring in their run-of-the mill work. Learning stories of the nationalist era fills them with joy. The use of kantha thread brings a special beauty to the works.

In the context of the Indian struggle for Independence, Gandhiji promoted the production and consumption of handspun cloth, or khadi, in order to bridge the divide between urban and rural populations as well as between the high and the low castes. Gandhiji’s conceptualization of khadi aimed not only at the revival of the handicraft, but was also critical to creating a self-sufficient rural India. After 70 years of independence, the urban citizens have benefited while the 700 million living in villages still live in poverty with poor infrastructure and illiteracy.

How would you describe your installations?

Typically it takes me two to three years to conceptualise with intense reading and research. This series is a continuation of two of my previous projects, ‘Indigo Narratives’ and ‘Salt: The Great March.’

This is my first solo exhibition in Bangalore and I am looking forward to people’s response.

This exhibition comprises several site-specific installations, 40 Ajrakh textile artworks, and multi-media spoken poetry art.

My installation, ‘Decolonizing Khadi Hand Towels: A Moral Consumer’ is for example, inspired by a Khadi Bulletin published in 1921. This image pictured here was titled ‘To Whom Will You Give?’ The image was clearly aimed at India’s English-educated communities, whom it challenged to support their own poor cultivators, rather than foreign mills.

Can you explain the process of Ajrakh?

The ajrakh tradition is not going to last long. So I have created an art work on textile which can be preserved in homes, private collections and museums for a few decades.

The art form is irreplaceable and someone has to take responsibility to conserve it. I collaborated with Ajrakh artisans who migrated from Sindh and Balluchistan in 1600 CE and carry on the ancient textile traditions of printing and dyeing in Bhuj, Gujarat. Invoking such traditions, I bring together khadi, Ajrakh textile traditions and skill with my interpretation in a visual form.

Is it laborious?

It is one of the oldest types of block printing on textiles still practised in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Textiles are hand printed using natural dyes. Multiple stages of washing drying and dyeing are involved in producing a true ajarkh. This craft is practised by Khatris. Ajrakh is characterized by complex geometrical patterns, use of natural dyes and skilled, extensive production process.

The patterns share similarities with those from the Indus valley civilization.

The exhibition will be on at NGMA from October 1 to 15

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 10:09:51 PM |

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