Exhibition of handspun saris starts on Saturday at BIC

Exhibition of handspun saris starts on Saturday at BIC

The exhibition includes a collection of saris put together by the late Martand Singh, wildlife conservationist, parliamentarian and the last Maharaja of the princely state of Rewa.

Presented by The Registry of Sarees, an exhibition titled ‘Meanings, Metaphor - Handspun and Handwoven in the 21st Century’ is opening its doors to the public today at Bangalore International Centre. Earlier iterations were presented in Chirala and Coimbatore.

There will be a series of talks and conversation that will accompany the designs. “With every iteration of this exhibition, we have had to respond to different space contexts. In this case, it is a modernist inspired building which aims to enable cultural conversations in the city,” says Mayank Mansingh Kaul, the curator.

Since the architecture plays with the scheme of red bricks and grey concrete, the team has chosen to focus on the indigo dyed saris, that will contrast with the building. “It has been challenging to conceive of the exhibition at the BIC. With open spaces, we have had to carve out specific areas which can offer us a gallery experience,” he adds.

The world of khadi has also changed over the years. While it had a much wider appeal in the context of freedom of struggle back then, the symbolism of its white colour

Mayank Mansingh Kaul
Mayank Mansingh Kaul

continues in public life and politics today.

Mayank explains, “Today, khadi has simultaneously become an overarching and broad brand encompassing a range of rural made products which may not only be textiles; we feel that its handspun and handwoven aspect needs a new vocabulary. Since such hand spinning and hand weaving is such a unique skill of the Indian subcontinent from the global perspective, we feel it important to highlight its material qualities which are unparalleled in the world. At a time when fast fashion and homogeneous in dress has taken over attention to such material qualities can help define a unique contemporary aesthetic for Indian fashion, art and design.”

Nonetheless, the fabric has many regional variations though. The saris in the collection were woven in Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Bengal handweaving has the capacity for a certain finesse which is reflected in some of the lightest saris.

“In contrast, the saris woven in Andhra have a robust organic quality and are relatively thicker in weights, even if they have a remarkable softness and subtlety in the way motifs are woven,” he adds.

This collection focuses on fabrics made on handspun yarn and explores how it can be used from the thickest to the thinnest weights. They have handspun made to weave the thickest and strongest denim on one hand, and the thinnest most transparent fabric for a summer sari.

So what is the handloom scene like in the city? Mayank pitches in, “While I’m based out of Delhi, I can see that there is an enthusiastic and discerning community of handloom lovers who access handmade items through craft shops, including designer-led retail spaces. However, I think there is a need for more revival projects around the handloom traditions in Karnataka than we see presently.”

“Simultaneously, there is a need for non-commercial educational formats to help tell the stories behind the product. Since there are design institutions in the city, I would love to see them or other members of a young generation to take on the task of a major series of publications on Karnataka handlooms. The information that currently exists, largely in the space of the internet, can be fairly ill-informed and lacking thorough research.”

What to expect at the exhibition
Know about the possibilities that hand spinning and handweaving offers besides being enveloped by the beauty of the exhibited textiles.

Understand that handmade can play aesthetically and culturally in a rapidly digitalising world.

The Registry of Sarees has conceived a rigorous series of workshops and talks around the exhibition addressing aspects such as the history of cotton, hand spinning, textiles as art, weaving and the very need for such initiatives to be at the centre of a public conversation.

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