Weaves inspired from the indigenous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, namely Apatani, Aaji, Galo, Nyishi, Adi and Tagin, will be seen on the ramp as part of Enigmatic East – From Zero to Infinity, a show-cum-exhibit curated and collated by textile revivalist Sandhya Raman. “I have been a consultant with the Weavers Federation of Arunachal Pradesh, a government initiative, for about two years,” says Raman, who has worked for the past three decades towards reviving weaves, handlooms and textiles and making them sustainable.
She had been mentoring the weavers in Arunachal Pradesh for quite some time, and wished to get their voices and crafts in the mainstream narrative, albeit with a little design intervention and direction, and strategic partnership. “The Arunachal Pradesh State Weavers Co-op Federation has been working tirelessly to bring the handlooms and weaves of the state under one umbrella,” adds Raman.
“The weaves native to Arunachal are so simple, made on the backstrap loom, that’s as pure and handwoven as it gets. Yet the result is so dramatic. The idea is to let the colours, fabrics and the texture speak for itself, instead of letting it all get shadowed with glitzy cuts and designs,” says Raman, who has incorporated the native designs and motifs from six of the existing 26 tribes and 106 sub-tribes and other communities existing in the state. “There used to be this brown cotton grown in parts of the state, which is now only seen in small pockets. We are trying to get that back,” she says.
Raman stresses on the need for a multi-pronged approach and effort, rather than one where a revivalist or an outsider starts afresh. “The weavers and the communities have seen many people come and go. And we need to work within the existing system instead of starting from scratch. We need to be sustainable as a thought, right from the place where you are sourcing the material, the process — be it the way you are introducing vegetable dyes, or reviving a particular weave. I just can’t tell them to change their fabric; that’s wrong, as they are already doing something. The change will be manifested slowly, as and when they see the appreciation trickling down,” asserts Raman, who is also working towards making the weaves a geographical indicator. “The weaves are very much art of their lives and history, and they belong to the state, and yes, no one should mess with it. We see these efforts — all frills and frivolous — of cutting something here and there and sticking it somewhere else. This will just dilute the essence of the craft. The need of the hour is to recognise the sense of each particular art and craft in textiles and play with that,” she says.
Enigmatic East has deliberately been curated and designed in a simple and yet classic way and all the costumes have been woven in the state itself. Raman is hoping to work with the remaining tribes and communities. “The confidence will need to be won and efforts will need to be made to establish ones trust. Only then we can see the ripple effect in place,” she adds.