The Indian Royals And Digital Preservation Of Indian Textile Heritage: Saving Old The New Way

    05-May-2021
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The Pandemic empowered seven imperial families of India to meet up and present an online textile display that solemnised sustainability through legacy and heritage craft and initiated a discussion on the resurrection of customary and traditional information and practices in the Indian fashion industry
 
 -Apoorva Thakur
 

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Weaving Drapes: An Installation By Nilambag Palace And Bhavnagar Heritage The installation, supported by the Bhavnagar royal family, brings women weavers and breadmakers of Bhavnagar city with brass and copper karigars of Sihor to create a vision that shows the range and versatility of traditional skills. Placed on a delicate silk textile, the installation presents a fine embroidery Chaniyo produced in the 'bharat kaam' technique; a conventional choli or khadi blouse; a bandhani cotton saree draped in the local kathiyawadi style and adorned with beadwork jewellery, a famous craft of Bhavnagar.
 
With the advent of globalisation, industrialisation, modernisation and most importantly, digitalisation, the planet has been evolving drastically. Times have been unprecedented, and still, more than 4,26,879 odd years remain for the much-awaited Kalki incarnation. Hence, until then, the chaos has to be dealt with, hopefully with utmost grace and dignity, while holding on to the cultural roots and simultaneously growing upwards. Undeniably, heritage preservation is an essential aspect because, As the source of identity and character, legacy or Heritage is critical for engaging localised networks and communities and empowering the vulnerable groups to participate entirely in cultural and social life. It can likewise give absolutely tested, and accurate answers for struggle, prevention of conflicts, anticipation and compromises an individual or a society as a whole has to traverse through. Heritage envelops unmistakable or tangible and immaterial, cultural and natural and narrative resources acquired from the past and adores the upcoming generations by its virtue and the excellence of their indispensable worth. The term 'heritage' has advanced significantly over the years. At first, alluding solely to the fantastic remaining parts of societies, the idea has steadily been extended to accept living society and contemporary articulations.
 
 
 

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Indore Maheshwari, Bridging Worlds : The collaboration between REHWA+WomenWeave and designer Sanjay Garg (Raw Mango) will draw inspiration from the iconic Boutet de Monvel portrait of HH Maharani Sanyogitaraje Holkar. The installation presents the 'Sanyogita' saree, REHWA's reinterpretation of the Maharani's resplendent yellow Maheshwari saree shown in her portrait.
 
Hands down agreeing to favour saving cultural Heritage, the understanding of Digital preservation remains a bit unexplored. These days, it is a very sensational issue to preserve the social legacy through advanced digital technologies, especially as we have had a very long history of wars and battles throughout the historical timeframe to annihilate and often eradicate cultures, kingdoms, societies, religion and realms. For instance, the massive Syrian destruction can be taken as an example of why digital preservation should be the new normal. Mass destruction of their heritage sites and properties took place. Still, the digital preservation through digital creation of museum objects and sharing of high-quality photographs reconstructed the tangible identity of those objects of their culture. This also enabled some archaeological sites to get under quick restoration due to photography available at the global level with a single click.
 
Further, stating the facts that the Indian and the global fashion industry is changing at a galloping rate (the reasons are multiple, but particularly the internalised idea of overall western superiority, which has unfortunately percolated to the innermost corners of the nation is the reason why everything has been fluctuating as per 'Trends' across the world) while moving to the other side of the spectrum, surprisingly, as per the ASSOCHAM reports, around 95% of the world's handwoven fabric comes from India. This reiterates the idea that the love for Indianness, Indian art, culture, and Heritage has increased more in other countries than India itself. All these factors and the love for Indian Heritage combined with the first version of this horrible Pandemic in 2020 itself caught up the head of the Royal representative of Mayurbhanj, which led to the development of a Digital Museum.
 
"Textiles are like languages. If families abandon them, they will die, and it goes unsaid that India has massive love and pride for historical pimmensees. It just has to be unearthed", says Akshita M Bhanj Deo, whose progenitors once administered Odisha's massive Mayurbhanj region. Known for its PhutaJhala sari, the coarse cotton with check prints, this was the typical wear for the tribals of the Mayurbhanj locale. "In any case, tragically, not very many groups in Mayurbhanj make the PhutaJhala sari presently," says the 27-year-old. The circumstance provoked her to start The Karkhana Chronicles, a digital installation series, where this lost weave is one of the muses. Bhanj Deo started the arrangement alongside Priyaraje Scindia and Chaitanya Raj from the recently illustrious groups of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan individually. The Karkhana Chronicles aims to bring the lost artisans' stories and crafts to wider urban audiences who are now eagerly embracing slow and sustainable living. Fashion has a significant role to play in this 'new' lifestyle. By sparking awareness, the team hopes to learn from the traditional Indian communities and see how we can adapt their practices to make and consume fashion today. So, last year, the former royal provinces of Jaisalmer, Mayurbhanj and Gwalior transformed their verifiable properties into landmarks to the wasteless material acts of nearby networks. This first release of the Karkhana Chronicles displayed handlooms, such as chanderi, ralli, pattu, ajrak and the phuta sari, just as dokraSabai crafts work. The picked creates were personally attached to neighbourhood customs and history, just as the Royal Families themselves. All establishments were privately sourced from inside a 100-mile range and included nearby groups and architects.
 
 
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Mysore silks and Khadi - Innovation, Creativity and Style: Conceptualised by HH Yaduveer Wadiyar and his sister, Jayathmika Lakshmi, the installation from Mysore incorporates silks and Khadi in a sculptural piece of a styled sari and jacket. The beauty and symbolism of Mysore's textile heritage and sustainability message is highlighted by a third component- the Navalgund Dhurrie, a style of weaving that dates back to the Vijaynagar empire and is woven exclusively by women. The craft is rapidly dwindling, with less than 50 weavers still carrying forth this unique technique. Mysore's legacy with textiles continues with contemporary initiatives supporting Khadi and weaving units that use indigenous cotton - thereby revitalising sustainable value chain models.
 
This version of Karkhana Chronicles, through specially curated installations in India's royal residences and forts for three months, aims to pay tribute to its rich textile history by working with its custodians- the local artisans. Every imperial house has set up an installation or an establishment of textile, which is motivated by their local neighbourhood expressions, which they want to promote. Through the mission, they have begun a discussion on circularity, history, and social value while endeavouring to guarantee the acknowledgement and upliftment of the local Indian textile and handloom artisans. The mission's endeavour to restore Slow fashion in India and ignite a new life into India's Textile art must be noted. It likewise expects to save the withering sustainable textile arts and practices of local artisan communities across India by documenting and digitally preserving these practices. Upheld by The ReFashion Hub - a sustainability gambit centred drive with an extraordinary accentuation on water stewardship - the task has worked with the imperial families of Indore, Kathiwada, Bhavnagar and Mysore to start a discussion on the restoration of conventional information and practices in the Indian fashion industry. The project framework draws its motivation from the high-quality workshop or 'karkhana' while giving a heads up for fashion that is more sensitised towards the environment, natural resources and most significantly, the people engaged within this sector.
 
The second version of Karkhana chronicles had a panel discussion with Mickey Boardman. He has been a designer and body positivity columnist for the past 30 years and is the editorial director of the Paper magazine. AkshitaBhanjdeo kicked off the discussion by stating that Karkhana Chronicle started looking at the condition of the artisans and craftsmen, the prime sufferers in the Pandemic. Hence it was a venture to improve the circularity in fashion.
 
 
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Kathiwada - Where tradition and innovation meet Conceptualised by the royal family of Kathiwada, the installation explores innovation while being rooted in the traditional craft practices of the princely state. This interprets the historical textiles and weaving techniques to make them relevant to the current generation through several elements. The legacy of Kathiwada is demonstrated through Kasota weaves by the Adivasis of Juna Kathiwada, hand block printing by award-winning artists from Bagh, and Khaddar woven in Madhya Pradesh. It also adorns the royal costume Banarasi Brocade from HH Sangita Kathiwadas' collection, further embellished with a contemporary rendition of tribal jewellery in metal and bead craft done by tribal women from the surrounding villages.
 
She also mentioned that art needs to be very inclusive, and the homegrown brands were helped due to the overwhelming response in the previous edition. Moreover, she confirmed that contemporary relevance is a crucial element because the artisans have a fragile incubation system. It is vital to acknowledge the privilege held by others. She also pointed out that although the government of India has specific schemes and subsidies for them to benefit from, the most significant issue observed by her is translation, as the tribal artisans barely have anyone to read out and explain what is out there for them.
 
Addressing the unique identity of a handmade product, Priyadarshini RajeScindia, Director of Jai Vilas Palace and Museum, said, "We are a country that inspired the handlooms, handicrafts, and bespoke. Every handloom piece is one of a kind piece, and it can't be redesigned or recreated the same way." Adding to the conversation on making heritage craft appealing to young Indians, Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil, Founder of Bhavnagar Heritage, said, "We need to create that trend factor of Indian textiles and handicrafts if we want to encourage young people to adopt our sustainable textile heritage." Talking about inculcating more inclusivity and sustainability in fashion, Sangita Kathiwada, Founder and Director of Melange Fashion House, added a significant point - "Allowing craftsperson to directly engage with the consumers can address the carbon footprint of the packing aspect of fashion as well. And commerce in creativity can go hand-in-hand as the world has moved on from them being bifurcated and separate entities. How can we make Heritage relevant today is a major question that we need to ask ourselves."
 
The discussion addressed fascinating and noteworthy dimensions like cultural appropriation, sustainability, climate justice and environment equity as an imbued part of the conventional specialities rehearsed by native networks and the need to make a more considerable allure among the young these customary speciality structures. Undoubtedly, the panel discussion was comprehensive, informative and noteworthy, but to what extent will the groundwork be successful post crystallisation? It is something that everyone eagerly awaits.