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Blue Print

The artworks traces the history of indigo across the globe. Shelly Jyoti refers to the 17th century when Azrak craftsmen migrated to India from Baluchistan and Laura Kina has examples from the indigo-dyed Japanese folk kasuri fabrics and traditional boro patchwork quilts.

Written by Vandana Kalra |
December 22, 2009 1:58:03 am

The artworks traces the history of indigo across the globe. Shelly Jyoti refers to the 17th century when Azrak craftsmen migrated to India from Baluchistan and Laura Kina has examples from the indigo-dyed Japanese folk kasuri fabrics and traditional boro patchwork quilts. “The aim is to depict different connotations that the word ‘indigo’ denotes.

While my work takes more from the past,Kina has a postcolonial edge,” says Baroda-based Jyoti,52,who conceived of the exhibition in 2008 when a mutual friend introduced her to Kina who is based in Chicago. “There were some similarities in our previous work. The initial idea was to work on the theme of ikat embroidery but then we discovered our common association with indigo,” adds Jyoti.

Frequent interactions on the Internet followed. The outcome is the exhibition that will begin at Open Palm Court Gallery at India Habitat Centre on December 23. Both artists deal with the issue of labour related with indigo,but in a manner influenced by their antecedents and surrounding. So Laura Kina has had the sign posts visible in Devon Avenue of Chicago (a popular migrant hub),hand embroidered on khadi. The symbols range from the Hashmi Kajal,popular in the Indian subcontinent,to the menu board of a Pakistani restaurant to another sign advertising eyebrow threading and waxing. “A lot of immigrant women often work in these salons,” says Kina,36,who is associate professor of art,media and design at DePaul University in Chicago. In an acrylic on fabric she has painted a collage of innumerable signposts including roads named after Mahatma Gandhi and Golda Meir Boulevard,named after the Israeli Prime Minister. While Kina drew sketches of the artwork,the embroidery was outsourced to women from MarketPlace: Handwork of India,a fair trade collective in Mumbai.

Jyoti,on the other hand,worked with Azrak craftsmen in Bhuj. “It is an art that is dying,” says Jyoti,looking at the work using the Azrak dyeing technique that has motifs of charkha to wooden sandals,associated with Gandhi who supported the Champaran movement in 1917. In another triptych An Ode to Neel Darpan,Jyoti,a National Institute of Fashion Technology graduate,narrates Dinabandhu Mitra’s Bengali play Neel Darpan that portrays the aftermath of the indigo revolt organised by farmers forced to cultivate indigo by colonial planters. In Jyoti’s panel the colonisers are hawks who are manipulating the lotuses that represent farmers. In another series she stitches patches of different style of traditional embroidery,from ahir to soof on canvas with Sanskrit calligraphy black print. “I hope this encourages people to patronise craftspeople,” adds Jyoti. The connotations associated with the colour indigo,meanwhile,do get a shade darker,as its grim past is delved into.

The exhibition at Open Palm Court Gallery is on from December 23 to 28

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