Romancing Kashmiri shawls

Romancing Kashmiri shawls

Aditi Desai, a social anthropologist is exhibiting her finest collection of shawls called ‘Weaving Magic: Romance of the Kashmir Shawl’ at the IIC. The exhibition will go on till December 7 and is a rare opportunity to witness the collection made painstakingly over the past 30 years. The exhibition is showcasing Kashmir jamawar and European paisley shawls from late Mughal to Afghan, Sikh, and Dogra periods.

The exhibition also shows the influence Kani shawls of Kashmir on European weaving centres and shawl business worldwide. “I have traced the social, economic, political backdrop of shawl production and design/motif development, dating of shawls, the virtual collapse of shawl exports by late 19th century and the recent revival of Kani weaving in this exhibition,” says Aditi.

The spirit behind her collection is to cherish, restore and share these incredibly beautiful works while encouraging others to treasure and restore them. Aditi has devoted her time and earnings to the restoration of the pieces she has collected, using the expertise of Najibabadi rafugars (darners) whose craft is fast disappearing. “I support several weaving, embroidering and rafugar families from Najibabad and Kashmir in the maintenance of quality, design development and marketing.

My main endeavour is to raise awareness and appreciation of this exquisite but very
demanding textile tradition that merits cherishing and preserving,” adds, Aditi.  
The Kashmir Kani shawl is handwoven on a basic loom and takes about 18 months to weave. The shawl designers inspired by the beautiful Kashmir flora and fauna, weave it in sections and then join through rafoo or the invisible stitch.

These shawls are made using only natural dyes and different grades of Pashmina wool depending on the purpose for which the shawl was meant, e.g. as a palace or tent drape; saddle cloth; bedspread; table-cover or as shoulder mantle.
The other fine shawls on display include the European shawls, popularly known as the ‘Paisley’. They are woven in one piece, using chemical dyes and take very little time to weave. The Paisleys were woven in wool, wool/silk, wool/cotton and other combinations.

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