Bangalore is in for a beautiful story that unfurls from today, like a saree slowly unwrapped. The story of the freest fabric and yet a keeper of modesty, a defier of time and yet timeless itself, a cloth that covers the country’s innermost lives and deepest secrets.
The fabrics and sarees presented in MEANINGS, METAPHOR - Handspun and Handwoven in the 21st Century, were first commissioned for Khadi - The Fabric of Freedom, a series of exhibitions curated by the late Martand Singh. These exhibitions were developed within a broader set of initiatives led by textile experts Rahul Jain, Rta Kapur Chishti and Rakesh Thakore, and involved a study of the many cultures and technologies of cotton cultivation in India. Evoking reflections on its near and far histories, they further raised questions about the relevance of hand-spun and hand-woven cotton fabric, qualities of which remain unique to the Indian subcontinent even today.
The exhibitions travelled to New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata between 2002-03, and the sarees were designed and produced between 2000-01, conceived as a collection of 108 distinct designs. In parallel, a collection of 108 varieties of cotton fabrics were sourced from across the country, from handloom centres producing hand-spun yarn as well as that made from the ambar charkha. Both these collections were presented in the exhibitions together, accompanied by a catalogue of the fabricsamples, released in a limited edition of 100, along with a publication of articles by Asha Sarabhai, Rta Kapur Chishti, Rudranghsu Mukherjee and Rahul Jain, a photo-essay by Manuel Bauer, and an introduction by Martand Singh.
The sarees and fabrics were commissioned as a set of two of the same design, of which a major number of pieces from one set have been acquired by The Registry of Sarees, Bangalore, which has established a centre to provide a home for the collection, and which is presenting a series of new iterations of exhibitions with it. These efforts are meant to facilitate the study of the exceptional design and quality of the textiles to reflect on their relevance today, and in the future.
The exhibition’s first iteration was presented in Chirala in Andhra Pradesh in November last year, as part of Anchoring Innovation, a Conference and Festival celebrating the technological cultures of the handmade in India. Its second iteration was held at the iconic Lakshmi Mills in Coimbatore in January 2019, the opening of which was marked by the release of a catalogue of the exhibition.
Almost two decades since the textiles were first commissioned, Rahul Jain, Rta Kapur and Rakesh Thakore provide an insight into the process of the commissions and the exhibitions, and place them within Martand Singh’s larger interest and involvement with Indian textiles through a new perspective.
While Ally Mathan of The Registry of Sarees is presenting the exhibition, Mayank Mansingh Kaul has curated it. The exhibit opens to the public on March 30th and is on view at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur II Stage, up till April 5.
Text Platform Desk