Gyaser: lost and found

Gyaser from Swati and Sunaina’s collection   | Photo Credit: HARSHIKA TANTIA

In the early 19th century, China refused to make or sell a ceremonial fabric to Tibetan monasteries. The monks turned to Banarasi weavers they met at the Kalimpong trading post. “They could never say no to a challenge, or a business opportunity,” says designer Swati Agarwal. On December 17, she and fellow designer Sunaina Jalan, along with art curator Sharan Apparao, will present Between Land & Sky: Woven Gold from the Gyaser Tradition, in Chennai, as a visual account of the fabric’s journey.

This follows a similar presentation in February, where the revivalist duo featured Rangkaat, Meenakar and Kaduwa weaves. “This year, we decided to focus on one type of Banarasi at a time, and picked Gyaser. We have been working on it for over 18 months,” says Agarwal. The research and development involved help from Monisha Ahmed, independent researcher and writer specialising in the art, textile and trading history of Ladakh, to get the historical context right. She, along with designer and writer, Mayank Mansingh Kaul, will add supporting narratives in a talk on Tuesday.

Agarwal says, “These materials were primarily used for upholstery, and were often not more than 26 inches in width. We had to figure out how to make it a sari width.” The Indian zari had to be electroplated with 24K gold to achieve the desired look. They also replaced religious motifs with Oriental flowers to retain the aesthetic of the region. They have created only six distinct patterns, in 12 colours, for a limited-edition collection of 72 pieces, that starts at ₹6 lakh.

The saris will be on display from December 17 to December 21, from 11 am to 6 pm. At Appaswamy Clover by the River, River View Road, Kotturpuram. 9810072612

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 8:48:17 AM |

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