Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
The Banjaras & the Lambanis lived in the forested areas, mainly in South India.They have now been settled in villages through government schemes and no longer follow the nomadic / gypsy lifestyle of their ancestors. An article somewhere stated that these people are descendants of the people of Mohenjo Daro …. an intriguing thought!
Their distinctive dressing is similar to the tribes of Kutch -with the enormous amounts of jewelry, their mirror-worked textiles and the embroidered backless blouses. But the groups that migrated south developed their own artistic form of embroidery that is dense and has unique motifs using fewer mirrors and more shells and other embellishments. They also have a unique form of hair jewelry that is absent in the Kutch tribes.
There is very little self-documented history available about these gypsy groups and all that we have are anecdotes and legends passed down verbally from one generation to another. A lot is lost and often mis-transmitted especially as vital fragments of culture become extinct and there are no real-life examples of objects and concepts that the younger generation may associate the unique words in their vocabulary to. And so eventually the meaning of that word gets distorted and corrupted.
All the same, an effort must be made quickly to gather all that is still available and document it for posterity.
Even more critical but much more humongous is the task of halting the extinction of the culture. Sadly this may be an impossible task, but in a few discrete elements of their culture such as their textile art, halting the extinction of the tradition may still be possible.
This is an area in which we still have a few old ladies who know the art but have not passed on the skill to the next generation. In about 10 years the number of surviving practitioners of this skill will have dwindled to a fraction and in 25 years it is likely that this art will be extinct.
As for every other idea to survive, the bare minimum numbers of minds infected with the idea – the ‘tipping point’ is essential. I suspect that the tipping point concept works in both directions … once we the number dwindles and becomes lower than the minimum quorum, it will fail to survive into the next generation.
Lifespans are shorter within these tribes. And the speed of urbanisation for these tribes is among the fastest in these tribes. Therefore the distance between the lifestyle & beliefs of the grandparent generation and the grandchildren generation is far more than the same in urban populations.
Hence the helpless urgency. It might already be too late. Maybe it is – maybe it is not. But an effort must be made now. Even alone. Even with just a weak shred of hope.
I will begin with Lambanis as I have a long-standing relationship with their community in the 4th quarter of 2014.
If you would like to help in any way, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
Foreseeable requirements at this stage are funding & short-term intern volunteers for different stages of the project.