Indian embroidered textiles have always been closely associated with the habitats and lifestyles of the communities. They are strong regional identities which the artisans have acquired through generations of repeated practice. The artisan’s capacity is built up on fine life skill derived from childhood while assisting their elders and mastering the technique. Indian communities with their diversity have many variations of embroideries to offer.
Embroideries are not simply a particular way of making surface ornamentation but are intricately bound up with the structures, values, histories and identities of the communities in which they are practiced. A Bengal nakshi kantha or a kutchi taka are both forms of running stitch, but they have different characters. While it is possible to identify areas in which embroidered surface can be seen to play a role, it is equally important to acknowledge the great diversity that exists within these areas. The nature of surface ornamentation and its significance to their practitioners are not fixed but rather, they change over time and vary across regions of the country.
IGNCA, a premier resource centre in the field of arts and culture has a well laid-out programme on Ethnographic Collection under its Janapada Sampada Division which studies, documents and disseminates knowledge about arts and crafts traditions of diverse communities of India. The present exhibition, curated by Asif Shaikh, includes some rare pieces from the IGNCA archives and Resurgence Exhibits from Asif’s collection, which displays a fine insight into the handling of materials and tools.
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), was established in the memory of Late Smt. Indira Gandhi and is visualized as a centre encompassing the study and experience of all the arts, each form with its own integrity yet within a dimension of mutual interdependence, interrelated with nature, social structure and cosmology.
The Janapada Sampada Division of the IGNCA undertakes research on Indian cultural heritage from eco-cultural, socio-economic and historical perspectives through a multidisciplinary approach. One of the major programmes of the Division is Ethnographic Collection under which creativity at different levels is explored and documented. A core collection has been built that includes textiles, masks, puppets, ritual objects and musical instruments from all over the country.
Indian craft is well known for its variety, composition, colour palette, motif, technique and its contextual significance. It forms part of our festivals, traditions, rituals, beliefs and spiritual practices. Each craft has its own historical background and a traditional context. Over centuries of practice, the processes, methods and skills were developed which continued to evolve in specific ways through generations giving a particular character to the respective craft.
The Mughal and Rajasthani court embroideries of 17th-18th century reflect Persian and Central Asian influence. Royal workshops or karkhanas were established in major cities such as Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Ahmedabad and Bidar. The collaboration of Hindu and Muslim craftsmen resulted in emergence of syncretic styles. With the use of rich materials, real surface decoration, new motifs and excellent craftsmanship, the embroideries started acquiring refinement, elegance and richness. The Mughal influence was seen in embroideries on silk with patterns of hillocks, flowering trees, plants, peacock, butterflies, insects and animal motifs.
The IGNCA has completed twenty five years and is celebrating its silver jubilee by holding seminars, conferences and exhibitions on various dimensions of Indian arts and culture.
Keeping with this spirit, the Centre is organizing an exhibition on Indian embroideries entitled, “resurgence: revival of indian embroideries” curated by Asif Shaikh. The exhibition includes live demonstrations by master craftsmen. A one day symposium has also been organized where noted scholars will speak on different aspects of textile and embroidery traditions across India.
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