Handloom Haat in Delhi

Textile talk: A view of the exhibition

Textile talk: A view of the exhibition  

The vision of the World Handmade Textile Biennales just got the direction and drive it needed with the unveiling of refurbished Handloom Haat and the support of the government

It is significant that Handloom Haat, the government’s brick-and-mortar endeavour to create a centre for textile craft and heritage, is on Janpath — ‘the people’s path’. Because the idea is to connect the weaver with us, the people who have the power to change a mere livelihood into a profession.To keep our living heritage alive in a changing world.

“The idea is to start linking people to their histories and legacies,” says Sujata Prasad, who retired as an Additional Secretary from the Ministry of Culture. She now serves as an advisor to the Crafts Museum. She leads me through the exhibition, bringing every piece alive.Some are from her own collection (like the kalamkari piece that tells the complete Ramayana), several from the Crafts Museum (like the phulkari) and from mastercraftsmen themselves (like Rohit and Rahul Salvi’s silk patan patola). Each piece is well-labelled and tells us a little about the craft, the piece, and details of the weaver.

The exhibition itself is divided into five zones: Chintz, Ikat, Embroidery, Brocade, and Khadi. Each will, in the future, evolve into a different biennale in the area from where it originates: the World Khadi Biennale in Ahmedabad (October 2019), Brocade in Varanasi (September 2020), Chintz in Jaipur (December 2020), Ikat in Hyderabad (February 2021), and Embroidery in Srinagar (June 2021). At the exhibit, the idea is also to connect similar craft forms from across the world — in each section, there are maps indicating where else the craft is practiced — there is Ikat in Indonesia and Turkmenistan, for instance

Weavers, designers, buyers from apparel and interiors spaces, and technologists, will all be a part of it. “It is a destination event,” says Ramesh Prasanna, cultural entrepreneur and Director – International Alliances, Government Interface and Media, from the Biennales team. He calls it textile and cultural tourism, which, like the Kochi Biennale will have different elements scattered across the city.

Rajeev Sethi

Rajeev Sethi  

Prasad, who is an advisor to the Biennale, of which the Asian Heritage Foundation is the custodian, is looking forward to collecting the ‘smaller’ histories — the narrative of the bigger traditions is known and has been told, she says. But a family that sings its own song as it weaves, will now be able to give the world a glimpse not just of the cloth, but also of the lives they lead.

At the exhibition, you will find a double-ikat telia rumal wall hanging with 100 non-repetitive motifs a bright orange Chettinad saris in natural dyes, along with pieces from textile researcher Rta Kapur Chishti’s personal jamdani collection and much more. It’s not just the old though; there are contemporary pieces and motifs too, and weavers have experimented with fabrics they hadn’t traditionally used.

In the midst of it all, there are three of craftsperson Sarojben Rathore’s patchwork pieces that provide context to life as she’s seen in it:‘The Earthquake in Gujarat’, ‘Gujarat Communal Riots’, ‘A Life in an Ideal Village — Gojul Gaam’.

The exhibition is brought together, though perhaps unwittingly, by a khadi pieces that cover the bright lights overhead. There’s more of the material draped over the large windows, shielding the pieces from harsh sunrays.

Through his five decades of work in culture, Rajeev Sethi, — a trustee with the Asian Heritage Foundation and now a Biennale mentor — says he’s been concerned that handmade may be subsumed in the onslaught of machines and fakes. “If one really wants to be a conscious consumer, one must appreciate the effort that has gone into evolving these traditions…We need to understand why an ikat is pre-loom, a brocade is on the loom, and that chintz or embroideries are post the loom,” he says. The Biennale is just a beginning.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 5:35:17 PM |

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