Bengaluru has become the first Indian city to get into the global network of silk cities, celebrated French textile artist Isabelle Moulin said in Kolkata, expressing hope that in the next few years West Bengal’s Murshidabad district — known to produce fine silk in the over the past 300 years — may join the global silk city network.
“Two days ago, I launched the membership of Bengaluru — the first Indian city in the global Silk City network. Now, we have nine countries and 13 cities. If everything goes fine, then with time, I hope ‘Murshidabad Silk’ too can make it to the network. The network helps artisans and craftsmen to exchange knowledge, build trade relations and understand various craftsmanship techniques,” Ms. Moulin said during an interactive session with select media persons at Kolkata’s Oxford Bookstore.
The French textile artist ,who is on a ‘Silk trip’ to India, said there are historical reasons why Bengaluru has been included in the Silky City Network. “The International Sericultural Commission was held at Lyon in the 1950s and came to Bengaluru [in 2013]. Also Bengaluru is the Silicon Valley of India and Lyon has a big cluster of innovation and IT,” Ms. Moulin said. For the past three years, she has been working with stakeholders in Bengaluru to get into the global network of silk cities.
The Silk City network, where the French artist has played a pivotal role, is the global Silk City network so far has 13 “best silk–producing cities” which have “same philosophy to protect silk and its related heritage” from all over the globe across nine countries as its member (after the introduction of Bengaluru).
In Kolkata, Ms. Moulin established an initial contact with the Crafts Council of West Bengal to undertake a study on Bengal Silk (Murshidabad Silk) opening up the possibility to put the craft on the global map. The history of silk weaving in Murshidabad goes back to the early eighteenth century during the Mughal rule, when the Nawab of Bengal, Murshidkuli Khan, shifted his capital from Dhaka to a town on the east of the Bhagirathi river, and named it Murshidabad.
“Silk is a living material and West Bengal has a rich silk tradition with varieties such as mulberry, tasar, eri and muga. The silk industry in West Bengal is mainly concentrated in Murshidabad and I am excited to learn more about Murshidabad Silk,” Ms. Moulin said.
While Ms. Moulin said it may take years for Murshidabad to be included in the list and she will have to take up a new project for the endeavour, the textile artists emphasised that her work is to preserve the work of immensely gifted silk weavers and artists and provide them a global platform. The artists spoke about how silk at the global stage offers an “open market” and said the quality of Chinese is on a decline and “silk–producing cities here in India including Murshidabad can play a huge role as a change–maker”.
At the Kolkata’s Iconic Oxford Bookstore which is 100 years old, The French artist also launched her book “Impressions Indiennes’ that takes a look at Indo–French relations through the prism of silk. “We have a common history of relationship, the best one and first one is silk and textile,” and added that even in the field of education both the countries have old ties with Major General Claude Martin setting up schools in Kolkata and Lucknow. The French artist’s visit to Kolkata was faciliated by the Oxford Bookstore, Alliance française du Bengale, and Institut Français de New Delhi
In 2011, Ms. Moulin created the Silk me Back, an approach that closely combines heritage and contemporary expressions, combining scientific, technical and artistic perspectives on the theme of silk and textiles. Her project is supported by the local government in Lyon, France and in Kolkata she presented an exclusive collection of Jacquard printed silk scarves, specially created and made in France.