Metal jamdani and ceramic installations at Serendipity Arts Festival 2019


Bappaditya Biswas turns jamdani into art while Kristine Michael focusses on design interventions between artists and craft communities

Bappaditya Biswas — the Kolkata designer behind the Bai Lou saris — has brought his avante garde work with jamdani to Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF), under the curation of Pramod Kumar KG, co-founder of museum advisory firm Eka Archiving Services. Titled Weftscapes, the exhibition is the culmination of two years of dialogue between the two on the need to contemporarise Indian textiles.

“Indian textiles are perceived as ‘heritage’ textiles. They are represented by what it used to be. It doesn’t motivate the artisans, who live under the shadow of beautiful textiles from the past,” says Biswas. So, to bring back the “wow factor”, they decided “to take it to the next level of art, and not show it as craft”. The 20 pieces on display at SAF fights against the ossification of the technique by using a variety of unique raw materials such as bullion wires, electric wires, sequins and chiffon rags, to create kimono-esque garments. Some pieces using metal can weigh between three and five kilograms, but there is a beguiling effect of lightness.


Biswas worked on this with the jamdani weavers of Nadia district, first breaking down the definition of the technique for them, so they could start experiencing its versatility and then think of wires, springs and metal as yarn to weave into the supplementary weft. “It poses the question, does it remain the same craft?” says Pramod. There are other provocations, too, from the reference to colonial history and the peasant uprising in the use of indigo, to the subtle question related to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage tag given to Dhakai jamdani (how fair was it not to take cognisance of the history of the garment across a border created in the 20th century?).

Stoneware exploration based on Üdu forms, to create a variety of sounds

Stoneware exploration based on Üdu forms, to create a variety of sounds  

Ceramics to the fore

For all the challenges that beset traditional craft in India, textiles have still had their revivalist moments, points out ceramic artist and educator Kristine Michael. “There has been academic scholarship on textiles. Nobody has really focussed on the histories of ceramic and glass. There’s been a gap,” says the curator of the ceramics and glass installations at SAF. If pottery is low down the pecking order of craft, glass is even more, since the associations are mainly with industry.


It is relevant then that her curation in Kindling Change, through commissioned installations, films and text, has focussed on design interventions and collaborations between artists and craft communities as a way in which to reimagine ways of working, and to build the creative capacity of people. In ceramics, the artists featured include Kavita Pandya and Titas Ganguly, who set up Ochre Ceramics studio in Anand district, Gujarat, and are creating a sustainable income generation programme among the Rabbari community; Vanmala Jain, who works with women from Mumbai’s chawls and slums; and Lipi Biswas, who collaborates with Santhali people in her studio close to Bolpur in West Bengal.

In glass, Swagata Naidu and Srila Mukherjee have worked in Firozabad, the hub of glass work in the country, while Vineeta Oswal and Manoj Pilli work with bead-making craftsmen in Purdil Nagar, Agra. “The way forward is for design to be responsible. It has to change from craft revival or documentation to one of active intervention,” concludes Michael.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 10:32:58 PM |

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