Weaves Fashion

Artists to present their impressions of Gandhi at NGMA

One of the saris during the jamdani weaving process   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

On October 2, to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, multidisciplinary artists will present their impressions of Gandhi in the exhibition ‘Santati’, at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).

These artists from the weaving, fashion, literature, fine arts and design fraternity have used the freedom fabric khadi as their canvas. Among them is Hyderabad-based textile designer Gaurang Shah who will unveil more than 30 saris in khadi, the pallu of each bearing a woven replication of a painting by Raja Ravi Varma. The master painter’s death anniversary falls on October 2. At NGMA, three original Ravi Varma paintings, several oleographs and lithographs will accompany the display of saris.

Gaurang’s dream project has been in the making for two years and the designer beams as he shows off the saris, at his Hyderabad store. Before the saris go on view at NGMA, he isn’t permitted to share photographs of the end products; however, he’s game to share glimpses from the looms.

  • Santati will be inaugurated on October 1 and open to viewing from October 2 to November 15, at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai.
  • This tribute to Gandhi is conceptualised and co-curated by NGMA and Lavina Baldota, with the support of Ministry of Textiles, Ministry of Culture, Khadi and Village Industries Commission, and Abheraj Baldota Foundation.
  • The other participating artists: Prateek Jain and Gautam Seth of Klove Studio, designers Gaurav Gupta and Rajesh Pratap Singh, architect Ashiesh Shah, couturier Jean-François Lesage, poet Navkirat Sodhi, art collector Kishore Jhunjhunwala, and The Raja Ravi Verma Heritage Foundation.

The saris have been woven using 150-count fine khadi, with the yarn procured from Ganjam Zilla Khadi Gramodyog Sangh in Odisha. Two hundred kilograms of dupion silk yarn were dyed in 600 hues of natural dyes, for the weavers to replicate the paintings using Srikakulam jamdani technique.

Dyed in Kutch

The colours of the yarns ranged from pastel pinks to luminescent greens. “It wasn’t easy to develop such colours using natural dyes,” Gaurang recalls. One of his team members worked with Junaid Khatri in Ajrakhpur, Kutch. The master dyer’s team created eight to 10 shades of each colour; for instance, they developed 12 hues of white. Several shades of pink and beige were developed for the skin tones.

As Gaurang unveils one sari after another, it’s evident that the project has been worth the time and effort of 20 families of weavers in villages near Srikakulam, six dyers in Ajrakhpur, six members of Gaurang’s team, among others.

The genesis of this project harks back to eight years, when Gaurang had replicated some of Laxman Aelay’s paintings on Telangana women, through jamdani weaves. Lavina Baldota of Abheraj Baldota Foundation had seen these saris and was impressed. She had kept in touch with the designer and urged that they should collaborate.

In 2017, she facilitated a meeting between Gaurang and The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation in Bengaluru. “The Foundation showed us 100 oleographs and helped us choose some of his lesser known paintings. They were in three categories — women, Gods, and stories from mythology. We chose 54 paintings,” says Gaurang.

Gaurang Shah while displaying a sari from the collection in Bengaluru last year

Gaurang Shah while displaying a sari from the collection in Bengaluru last year   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The initial idea was to replicate the paintings through weaves, kalamkari and embroidery. A few trials later, Gaurang decided to focus on jamdani. Each sari took three months to weave, barring a few with intricate paintings that took eight to 10 months. Gaurang shows us one sari where the painting has been recreated using fine Ari embroidery — its texture almost resembling a painting. That took 10 months to create.

The design team enlarged the Ravi Varma paintings on paper to scale with the 42-inch sari pallu width, and outlined every colour to precision. The weavers would reference these sheets for the jamdani weaving. The colour of the sari was decided according to the painting.

A sari on the loom

A sari on the loom  

One of the pallus features a painting where there are nearly 20 people, each wearing a different expression, body language and attire. Gaurang lauds the weaver, exclaiming that he didn’t think recreating such a painting would be possible. Replicating facial expressions and the fall of fabric as seen in paintings, through weaves, is no mean task. Most of the saris in this project have been woven by women who were erstwhile manual labourers or into farming. “These women were trained by us only a few years ago. They are skilled and game for challenges,” says the designer.

After the exhibition at NGMA, Gaurang hopes to display this collection at other national and international museums. “We might auction the saris after two years. We have plans, let’s see... We’ve woven only one sari of each kind, though there are enquiries I don’t want to duplicate them,” Gaurang signs off.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 7:47:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/textile-designer-gaurang-shah-to-unveil-khadi-saris-with-a-woven-replication-of-raja-ravi-varma-paintings-at-ngma-mumbai-to-mark-gandhis-150th-birth-anniversary/article29499710.ece

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