Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
I grew up in the Gujarati community of traders.
A community in which the critical success factor is ‘data mining’ within the community. Fathers, father’s brothers, mother’s brothers, neighbourhood elders, father-in-laws, brothers-in-law and all other male relatives are involved in training a young man in his trade and in business management skills.
The transmission of knowledge is not outsourced to third-party institutions such as universities and schools. It is conducted within the community. There is no formal structure that may be separated from the transmitters of the knowledge – no books, no online learning, no DVDs! The lesson cannot be separated from the teacher – making the depth of study as vast as the student want it to be. The training is one-on-one and each student trains with a specialist, unlike in the case of universities where specialists are scarce and students must necessarily share a Guru with a 100 other students. Individualised customised education programs. Lasting up to 3 – 4 years. The training is conducted with focus, rigor and with thoroughness. Because the examination that the student must pass at the end of the course, is the exam of conducting business in real life – not just a paper test of knowledge. And since his whole life depends on his training, it is conducted until he learns under the TINA principle ‘There Is No Alternative’.
This entire learning-teaching system rests on the single key characteristic of the community : bonding. Every one helps everyone. If one man from the village is successful in the city, within a few years the whole village is seen to have migrated …. as a ‘lets help him’ chain is created.
This key feature of ‘community bonds’ is not carried out by men alone. In fact while with men the mechanism is evident very clearly, it is the women who are in charge of creating this bonding. In other communities in India that I have been closely associated with there is a ‘crab-pull-down-the-next-crab-down’ is seen in several places. In the Gujarati community, there is a deep sharing of lives among the women as they spend the months of summer with their children in their brother’s father’s home. And with this chain it is easy to see that every woman spends time both as a guest and as a hostess during the summer. In the course of the month-long stays every year, closeness develops.
And they share not only the elaborate dhokla-dhokli recipes that Gujarat is famous for, but also the newly learned textile art skills. These are practiced only to create art works for self consumption. There are several forms of folk textile arts in Gujarat.
A few have been shown below :
Ajrakh Hand Block Printing
Simple Embroidery Bharatkaam
Fine Applique work
Tie -Dye Ikat
The most magnificent and most difficult textile art of all – Double Ikat
Precision Kalamkari – Mata ni Pachedi
There must be more that I have not listed ……….. but for one state this wide spectrum is quite a feat!
Am sure the wonderful food being cooked there – the muthia-thepla-khandvi platters – kept everyone so spiritually gratified that it was easy to soar to great heights of creativity in their art!
Textiles have imprinted themselves on every aspect of my life – my adult passion and my childhood!
So now, when I go hunting for textiles and find beaded pieces from Gujarat amidst a collection of other gorgeous textiles, I feel a sense of bonding with the pieces – a sense of having touched my roots again.
Roots that I have taken for granted and never paid much attention to. And now through textiles, I am seeing the state and my ancestors in a light of reverence for the first time!