Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
Just as life happens just one step at a time, it seems to me that in the same way wisdom reveals itself one step at a time. It would have been so much easier if all the wisdom were to be ours the moment we began living – but sadly nature decided otherwise.
So for a long time I’ve believed that material pleasures can be a constant source of joy and have pursued them for years.
Collecting old treasures and extracting great joy out of the process of finding them, possessing them, studying their art and researching the cultural paradigms has given me many many moments of joy.
BUT… there was something amiss.
These moments did not last forever! The thrill of discovery was transient and too fleeting – it lasted maybe a day or a week. And then soon the restlessness and quest for the next search would be born again.
So finding lasting contentment in material pleasures was a bit elusive.
What then had the capacity to offer permanent or at least lasting fulfilment??
It is only in these last two years, having worked on something meaningful, that I discovered the answer:
Effort that goes into community building, even if it is a small contribution, results in the ‘longest’ lasting feeling of satisfaction / fulfilment / joy.
Maybe this differs from person to person.
But for me, this seems to be true as I discovered from the Astitva project.
In this note I introduce Phase III of the project that we launched in May 2018.
Goal of Phase III: To transfer the skills of making the hats of the women that are unique signatures of identity of the Aryan ethnic group of Ladakh to the next generation.
Here are a few pictures of the hat:
The orange flowers are real and they last for years unless one physically damages them.
They form the crown that sits on top of the hat. Other fresh flowers are also added often.
Major decorative elements are woven barley-straw braids, needles (absolutely essential) and a Ghau like silver piece.
Other decorative elements are silk floss tassels, beads and coins.
All of these sit on a black felt pyramid-like structure which is hand-stitched.
Making this base is not intuitive and it is the one process that is expected to take the maximum teacher-student training effort.
In the photo below, rows of the Barley-straw braids are seen just above the red beads.
And so once again, in May 2018 we set out into 4 villages to recruit teachers and students for this project.
Over a period of a week, we met with them and had many discussions over meals and stays. The spark of the thought of preserving cultural assets quickly built up into a little fire of conviction within the women groups. They now believe in the goal enough to devote time to the project and spend time teaching and learning their traditional skills.
Our role was probably minuscular in this process – all we did was created the awareness of a belief that they must have latently held and brought it to the fore and created an activity around that thought. We were just the catalysts.
Here are the men and women who are taking this cause forward in Phase III of the Astitva Project
Assuming all goes well, before the year is over, we will have over a dozen more women who will know how to make these hats!!
And then in the future they can teach others starting a chain reaction.
And then maybe in a few years this will no longer be an endangered traditional art!
One step at a time ….