In the 1980s, Rogan painting was almost extinct. Only two craftsmen, Abdul Ghafoor and Rashid, were practising the craft in Gujarat’s Nirona. One could never have expected that 30 years on, the craft is still alive and growing. But, in 2016, there are many more young craftsmen in Nirona who have been trained in the craft and are doing well — which is evident in the variety of Rogan paintings on offer at state emporiums throughout India.
On the other hand, almost a century ago, applique traditions in India were often associated with rituals — on canopies, umbrellas and screens for fairs and festivals. Now, the craft is used to make decorative household objects. Important applique traditions have been prevalent in Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, each state distinct in terms of colour scheme and motifs.
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These, and many such nuggets of information, can be collected for posterity once you visit the Exhibition Hall at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). “Mapping Indian Handcrafted Textiles” has been put together by Ruchira Ghose, former chairperson of Delhi-based Crafts Museum, in collaboration with Mushtaq Khan, former Deputy Director, Design and Documentation, Crafts Museum. It is a part of a project on Indian textiles done under a Tagore National Fellowship based at and supported by IGNCA.
The exhibition has 155 pieces or panels on display, and is divided into five sections — Painted, Printed, Dyed, Applique and Embroidery. A striking feature of the showcase is an interactive digital map of various textile traditions in India, which — on the face of it — give a bird’s eye view of the entire scenario but, as you zoom, offers more detailed and specific information on the existence, survival and revival of the crafts in India through the centuries, besides their demographics.
“The exhibition has been mounted to give the public an idea of the power of the digital in the field of textiles. The strength of the showcase is, in fact, in the juxtaposition of the virtual with the actual,” says Ghose, adding, “You can travel seamlessly from the aggregate to the particular; and also explore across geographical space.” Besides the main interactive screen, each of the five sections has been fitted with their own interactive screens. The interesting thing is that, barring the six kantha pieces from the IGNCA collection, the other pieces come from personal collections and demonstrate the richness of Indian textile techniques when taken together. Along the way, one is also able to learn about certain rare traditions, such as the Murshidabad kantha, which has not been properly documented ever before, and represents a very distinct kantha tradition in India.
Ghose adds, “The information we have compiled represents not only the work done in the fellowship period since July 2015, but our accumulated knowledge of the sector which we have been involved with over many years.
The exhibition is on till September 30