Mijwan, a village in UP’s Azamgarh, has found a permanent spot at the swanky T2 terminal of Mumbai’s airport, courtesy its women. A 10-ft tall artwork, installed earlier this week, which took two years to make, is the labour of 40 women embroiderers, two calligraphers, and one visual artist, with a poem by Kaifi Azmi.
The 10-feet installation titled “Silent Minarets and Whispering Winds” has been conceptualised by Delhi-based visual artist Baaraan Ijlal, mounted on three conical minarets that are designed by 64-year-old Rajeev Sethi, the man behind all the art at T2. It is part of a four-piece artwork undertaken by Sethi at the carousel area, titled Baggage Acclaimed. He says, “At one time, cargo from India made our country what it was, and a large part of it was textiles. So I wanted to pay tribute to the magic of Indian textiles.” While the other three installations by designers Manish Arora, Ritu Kumar and British designer Ziandra Rhodes celebrate yarn and textiles, this work honours the resilience of an embroiderer.
“The glowing minarets mark the silent revolution by these women embroiderers as they stitch along towards a dignified future for themselves,” says Delhi-based visual artist Baaraan Ijlal, who executed the Mijwan project. The women are associated with Mijwan Welfare Society, an NGO working towards women empowerment in Azamgarh, a place which has been in the news for the wrong reasons.
The artwork comprises three illuminated resin minarets, covered with cotton fabric embroidered with motifs and Urdu and English text. “The text is actually the letters they have written to themselves. Since most of the women don’t know how to read and write, I composed these conversations as they spoke about their lives. Most of them talk about how their lives became ‘special’ after they discovered their hidden talent of embroidery,” says Ijlal.
Sanyogita Prajapati Mijwan, a middle-aged woman, says, “This is the first time we have done something bigger than lehengas and sherwanis. We now want to go to the Mumbai airport to see how our work looks at such a prestigious place. We have become important because of our needle and thread.”