NVNF Catalogue

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New Voices, New Futures stories of sustainability

an exhibition of narrative textiles by Kachchh artisans

Hosted by CEE India, Thaltej Tekra, Ahmedabad November 24th - 28th 2007


Foreword The people of Kachchh have always lived in harsh and fragile conditions. This dry desert area experiences drought a couple of times every decade. In direct contrast to the blandness of the desert are the colours, beauty and intricacy of the crafts of Kachchh; each one in its own way reflecting the vibrancy and spirit of its people. Although the devastating earthquake of 2001 took a heavy toll on lives, crafts and the livelihoods of Kachchh, people began rebuilding with new resolve and confidence. KHAMIR, a joint initiative of Kachchh Nav Nirman Abhiyan (KNNA) and the Nehru Foundation for Development (NFD) was established after the earthquake as a centre to support the initiative of individuals. Its main focus is on crafts through the Craft Resource Centre. KHAMIR is proud to be associated with the ‘New Voices, New Futures’ initiative. Carole Douglas initiated and curated the exhibition ‘Resurgence’ in which Kachchh artisans expressed their experiences of the 2001 earthquake using their craft as a communication tool - a unique and innovative way of working. For the current collection Carole has worked with younger artisans, facilitating them to use their craft in a narrative style to express themselves on issues of sustainability. For this project the artisans were directed to use environment-friendly materials and sustainable processes. A team from KHAMIR and CEE worked with Carole in this project. We would like in particular to mention Sushma Iyengar and Avni Varia from KHAMIR and Parthesh Pandya, Praful Bilgi and Shweta Khare from CEE India, Ahmedabad. The exhibition has been assembled to coincide with the 4th International Conference on Environmental Education being held at Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Ahmedabad, during 24 – 28 November 2007. Kartikeya V. Sarabhai Director Centre for Environment Education

Desert Traditions


of change. These works were made with the future in mind while celebrating past traditions.

Challenge, change & continuity The exhibition New Voices New Futures is an initiative of CEE India developed especially to mark the occasion of the fourth international conference, Environmental Education towards a Sustainable Future, held in Ahmedabad in November 2007. Environmental Education cuts across all social systems; it examines how we humans live, work and play; it helps to unlock the mind-sets that prevent change and it is the single most powerful tool we have in our possession to improve and maintain our shared environment. It is with these factors in mind that the exhibition project was conceived. This unique collection of textile works created by a new generation of Kachchh (Kutch) artisans is the result of nine months’ consultation and education that took place between the artisans, CEE India, CRC Khamir and the curator. New Voices New Futures reflects individual and community perceptions of sustainability and its inherent challenges, threats and opportunities. The exhibition offered the artisans an opportunity to air their concerns and voice the issues confronting them in their own lives; it provided a forum for meaningful environmental education to take place and it created a context in which the artisans may view themselves from the perspective of history and tradition while confronting the challenges

The artisans of Kachchh come from a long and celebrated history of textile traditions that reflect the area’s migration patterns over time. Bandhani (fine tie and dye), embroidery, weaving, Namda and Rogan work trace their various origins to distant pasts in other lands – to Central Asia, Afghanistan, Persia and Sindh. During the 18th century Kachchh’s reputation as a centre for textile excellence peaked; hand production flourished, artisans had established markets for their goods, resources were readily available and the fast, bright colours for which India was acclaimed came from the earth. Such textiles were highly valued for their aesthetic qualities, design ethos and durability. However the rapid change that took place between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries dealt a huge blow to traditional textile industries. The advent of synthetic colours, mass production and man made fibres supplanted local goods yet artisan communities absorbed the changes and, against a backdrop of technological progress, small pockets of traditional production continued. Although efforts were made to preserve certain traditions, and cooperatives and trusts worked diligently to support their artisans, it was an act of nature that reawakened world interest in Kachchh’s textile traditions. The devastating earthquake of 2001 created an unsurpassed bridge of aid between Kachchh and the world community. International exhibitions in major cities highlighted the plight of Kachchh’s fragile textile community; aid, donations and grants set up rehabilitation programs; existing NGOs moved quickly to assist their artisans; organisations evolved to oversee the distribution of funds and new incentives were developed. This flurry of activity inspired new enterprises and, much as their ancestors had done before them, the artisans of Kachchh were ready to take on the world albeit with the aid of 21st century technology.

More often than not, today’s artisan carries a mobile phone and has access to the Internet, has a website or is planning one, seeks design education within or beyond Kachchh, has travelled or is likely to, is increasingly aware of global issues and trends and has raised his or her sights accordingly. By the same token today’s artisan is confronted by a competitive world in which the challenges of pricing, fashion trends, supply and demand and uniformity place pressures on traditional practices and as the world shifts towards an ecological imperative artisans will be required to review their technologies. It is precisely this imperative that defined the parameters of the exhibition. New Voices New Futures challenged the artisans to create works that reflected one or more aspects of sustainability and that also reflected environmental awareness in the production methods they employed. The project commenced with a series of workshops designed to explore sustainability, current levels of awareness and to provide the means to translate the theme into works of art. Several common issues surfaced during the course of the workshops including strong emphasis on natural and human survival, water and waste management, deforestation, salinity and encroaching desert. Such issues impact directly on the lives of artisans who, without fail, acknowledged their own responsibilities in maintaining the balance of nature through their work practices. Over the course of three days, 60 artisans charted, mapped, graphed and drew their thought processes, shared visions, aired views and claimed their voices. As we finished the final workshop session, participants were unanimous in their bid for further education. ‘These workshops are very important’ stated one artisan ‘we have the sense that the environment is in danger but unless we know what to do how can we change?’


Before commencing work on their exhibition pieces, the artisans were supplied with a set of guidelines to lay the foundations for sustainable work practices. They were required to document details of production methods, list raw materials used (including source and price), track the use of resources such as water and fuel, note waste produced and its possible reuse or safe disposal, calculate time invested and finally report their overall learning and insights during the course of the project. The questions were designed to open the door for further education, unlock the mysteries of the life cycle of textile products and view sustainability from many perspectives At all times, artisans were encouraged to hold traditional values while expressing their ideas in new and innovative ways. I remain moved by the strong sense of identity retained by these new Kachchh artisans as they commit to a future of change. The block printed design of a young artisan may be influenced by contemporary culture and he/she may well have to decide between synthetic and natural dyes however the techniques employed continue to honour generations of carefully nurtured skills and knowledge. The palette of a Bandhani artisan may well be a London fashion statement but the knots created will be as meticulously tied as those of her/his teachers and their teachers before them. The stitches and patterns of a young embroiderer will be those of her community lineage but the item they enhance may be as equally destined for a store in a major international city as it is for dowry purposes. The techniques of the weaver will echo this most ancient form of textile production yet the choice of yarns, patterns and dyes affords new levels of experimentation and expression. Never before in the history of textiles have so many possibilities been available; never before have artisans been asked to work in such ways and never before has the opportunity been presented to revalue the place of traditional handwork within the global context of

sustainability. It is a fine line that separates the market from the maker and in a subtle game of role reversal artisans now have the chance to create trends as well as follow them and this collection demonstrates that Kachchh artisans can lead the way in the development of ‘eco-friendly’ products as they weave together the principles of ecological thinking and Kachchh creativity.

Carole Douglas is an independent designer, curator and an environmental educator in her own right and was a founding board member of CEE Australia. Carole currently operates her own business Desert Traditions focussing on sustainable enterprise, responsible tourism and community development.

In the final analysis the works themselves answer the first question asked when artisans grappled with the conference theme ‘How can we interpret education for sustainability?’ Yet during the process of creation and documentation they became educators in their own right; they created a window through which we can share their insights on their journeys of discovery. I am deeply honoured to have been invited to curate this ground breaking show and deeply privileged to again work with the spirit of Kachchh. I am sure that when we absorb the breadth and depth of the works on display we can rest assured that the future of Kachchh textiles is in capable hands and, with the right support and encouragement, the industry will develop according to the principles and ethics of sustainability. There is a great marketing opportunity lying in wait for ethically produced, economically viable and environmentally sustainable textiles and an opportunity for Kachchh to become a world leader once again. On behalf of the artisans I would like to thank CEE India for initiating New Voices New Futures and Khamir CRC for coordinating and supervising at the local level. Above all I wish to thank the artisans for their unflagging enthusiasm, open minds, generosity and devotion to their work. The fusion of shared values, appreciation of old world traditions and an abiding love of new ideas makes made this exhibition a stand alone success. Please enjoy and support these efforts to change the world. Carole Douglas, Curator

Foot note: An estimated twenty five thousand artisans are involved in the hand production of textiles in Kachchh (Khamir 2007) and who are serviced by independent entrepreneurs and a number of local and international organisations including KMVS, Kala Raksha, QASAB, HUM, Shrujan, KMVS, SEWA and VGS. Ashapura and Kutch Craft Parks offer facilities to artisans, Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya offers interdisciplinary design courses to local artisans and the Crafts Resources Centre (CRC Khamir) works closely with artisans to develop and promote new products, seek market opportunities and form sustainable relationships with overseas buyers.


Artisan: Khatri Juned A. Raheman, Ajrakhpur Age: 21 yrs Craft Tradition: Block Print Medium: Natural dyes on organic Khadi cloth Title: Water is Life (2007) Artist’s statement I have been engaged with this craft for the past four years. Ajrakh printing is our traditional family work and last year I completed the one-year design course at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. This experience taught me many new ways to think about my work. The theme of my piece is conservation of water and other natural resources. I have shown the increase in the groundwater table as a result of water conservation processes. I have shown how we can use renewable energies such as solar and wind power. I have also depicted rainwater harvesting as a method of conserving of water. I designed my working process to support the theme of my piece. To save water I invented a simple steamer (below) to set the dyes instead of boiling. This process works faster and therefore uses less fuel.

Footnote: Ajrakh printing is a complex process involving many hours of painstaking work and processing. It is highly water intensive and requires much fuel wood. Local printers are seeking ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the scarce water resources and to reduce the use of fuel wood.


Artisan: Khatri Juned Haji Ismail, Ajrakhpur Age: 20 yrs Craft Tradition: Ajrakh Block Print Medium: Natural dyes on raw silk Title: Sustaining my Art (2006-7)

Image: Juned Haji Ismail works on one of the several stages in the Ajrakh process.

Artist’s statement I learned this work from my father, who learned it from his father and this is our family history of tradition going back many generations. I have been working with this craft for the past four years. In 2006 I graduated from the Kala Raksha Vidhyalya design course. I have used natural dyes on silk which is rare in Kachchh. My theme emphasizes the importance of growing plants to provide natural dyes and promote their use for sustainability. I have depicted a farm with a workshop for block printing. This workshop has all the facilities for natural dyeing and printing and for making natural colours. There is a plantation of Indigo plants on the boundary of the farm. I have also shown the systems set up for reuse of waste water as natural colours have no harmful impacts on the environment. Our family is working towards the best water systems for environmental balance.

Image: Detail of dye yielding plants


Artisan: Khatri Sumar Daud, Nirona Age: 24 yrs Craft Tradition: Rogan Medium: Earth pigments on denim Title: Wearable Art (2007) Artist’s statement Rogan art has been our family tradition for many generations. My older brother, Abdulgafoor, taught me and I began making my own work about seven years ago. My idea is to celebrate human life enjoying a pure and healthy natural environment. I chose to show the rural, traditional lifestyle of Kachchh with all its natural beauty not disturbed by the destruction of forests and the arrival of industries. Rogan is a Persian word meaning a paste made from oil. The process is entirely natural; the colours are from the earth, the paste is a mix of castor oil and natural gums and it requires no water or energy in its process. It is a time consuming art requiring patience and great skill. The work was originally used to decorate clothing and other items for special occasions but mass production changed this. By placing my design onto modern clothing I will help to renew the interest in Rogan, keep the tradition alive and remind us of the world of nature. I have never used thick cloth like denim in my work before and I like the idea of painting jeans jackets with stories. It is a good way to promote my work and the environment!

Images: 1. Tracing the paste onto the cloth 2. Prepared Rogan paste stored under layer of water


Artisan: Khatri Mamad Irfan Abdullah, Dhamadka Age: 23 yrs Craft Tradition: Block Print Medium: Pigment inks on cotton Title: Wisdom Wins (2007) Artist’s statement Block printing is our family tradition handed down through the generations and I learned from my father. Earlier we used to sell our work to the local pastoral communities but cheap, imitation cloth changed this. Now we focus on much wider national and international markets.

Image: Irfan Abdullah with newly created work

The story in my work tells about conservation of our environment through tree planting and the importance of education. The top section shows trees being felled and students trying to stop this. In the next section the older person is a wise man teaching about the importance of forests, but unfortunately no one could stop the cutting of the trees. The middle section shows the students adopting a different strategy. On the advice of the wise older person they planted trees to save the environment. Other people are watching. The bottom section shows how the students have turned the land into a garden for all to enjoy nature’s beauty. The wise old man has died and his teaching remains to be handed on. Image: Detail of Wisdom Wins


Name: Sufiyan Ismail Khatri, Ajrakhpur Age: 24 yrs Craft Tradition: Ajrakh Block Print Medium: Resist printing, vegetable dyes on hand loom Mashroo Title: The Village of my Dreams (2007) Artist’s statement Ajrakh printing has been our family tradition for at least nine generations. Many of my family members are national award winners and I began learning from them from an early age. We used to live in Dhamadka, a village famous for Ajrakh. After the 2001 earthquake we built a whole new village called Ajrakhpur meaning ‘place of Ajrakh’. Many factors made us move including a change in the mineral content of the water. Since that time I have dreamed of a village equipped with all the necessary local resources to reduce external dependency … electricity from solar power, wide tree cover, good rainfall and therefore good crops and animal care.

Image: Sufiyan printing one of the many stages in the complex process used to create his piece.

With these factors in mind, I show you all the facilities for in my dream village. To support the environment I used only natural materials including clay, lime, gums, iron black, pomegranate, indigo, turmeric and madder in the process.

Footnote: The Ajrakhpur village project was masterminded by Sufiyan and Juned’s father Dr Ismail Mohmed Khatri whose vision for a cleaner world is shared by his sons. Dr Ismail combines his own knowledge with that laid down in ISO 14000 – the cleanest production standards as set down by the United Nations Environment Program.


Artisan: Dharamshi Keshavji Maheshwari, Bhuj Age: 34 yrs Craft Tradition: Silk Patola (single ikat) weaving Medium: Pure silk, vegetable dyes Title: Save Nature and Save the Earth(2006/7) Artist’s statement The word Patola is a combination of two words - ‘pat’ meaning cloth and ‘ola’ meaning weaver. I started working in this craft sector in 1991. Weaving is the traditional craft of my family and my father used to hand weave shawls. I wanted to do something different and started working on Patola weaving and became a skilled artisan by the age of 18 years. Now my whole family is engaged in making Patolas from the raw materials to finished product. My father spins the silk into yarn, my brothers weave and tie and dye the yarn and I am the colourist and designer. The theme of my piece is about using natural resources in a planned way so they are saved and environmental balance is conserved. This is depicted by natural symbols such as water, plants and flowers in different colours. I also put temples to remind us that tradition needs to be conserved to keep a full balance in life.

Image: Dharamshi with his finished piece

I used natural dyes to pass on the message and promote their use as the wastewater from the process can be reused for other purposes.

Image: Detail of Save Nature and Save the Earth


Artisan: Aurangzeb A Razak Khatri, Dhamadka - Kachchh Age: 23 yrs Craft Tradition: Block Print Medium: Natural dye on organic cotton. Title: Two Sides of the Story (2006-7)

Image: Aurangzeb A Razak Khatri

Artist’s statement Ajrakh is our traditional art and I have been engaged with this from the age of 15 yrs. In 2003 I received the Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay Award for my work. My work shows the two faces of our planet Earth; one shows a healthy environment and the other the causes and impacts of environmental degradation. On the left side I show rivers, hills, forests and the use of natural resources for livelihood - especially for artisans like us. The right hand side shows that cutting down trees leads to low rainfall and therefore a decrease in the ground water table and rivers dry up. I also show the increase in pollution level in the atmosphere resulting in global warming. Last but not least, my message is like this ‌ as the breaking of traffic rules leads to the occurrence of fatal accidents so too does the breaking of natural laws lead to environmental imbalance which may result in the devastation of Earth and its people.

Image: Detail of exhibit


Name: Adam Abdul Jabbar Khatri, Dhamadka Age: 21 yrs Craft Tradition: Ajrakh Medium: Natural dyes on organic cotton. Title: It is up to Us to Make the Changes! (2007-7) Artist’s statement Ajrakh is our traditional work and I have been helping my family since I was in class 10. After 12th standard, I completed a course in textile design at the National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFD) I received 3 awards; for the most variable garment, best fabric used and best designer from the NIFD fashion show. In the beginning (many centuries ago) Ajrakh printers used only natural dyes. In the 1950s synthetic dyes came and were cheaper and easier to use. My grandfather, Mohamed Siddique Khatri, began promoting natural dyes again and we follow his example. The idea of my work is based on a leaf that symbolizes nature and growth. Within this leaf there are three separate environmental situations depicted through changing patterns and colours moving from dark to

light. The dark portion shows greenery, less pollution and balance in environmental temperature. The second part is coloured bright red to show the rise in atmospheric temperature due to excessive emissions of polluting gases. Red signifies danger and heat! The final multicoloured part shows that, if we are serious about the impacts of pollution, we must take steps to stop activities that cause environmental degradation. Only then can we bring back a clean environment. During this project I thought about many new things. Development is necessary but not at the cost of the environment. I am planning ways to save water in my work and to reuse it. I also have to balance the use of natural colours with a market that wants more colours.

Image: Adam Abdul Jabbar Khatri


Artisan: Khatri Mustak Alimamad, Bhuj Age: 38 yrs Craft Tradition: Bandhani (Traditional Tie and Dye) Medium: Natural dyes on Gaji (Indian) silk Title: Save the Trees, Save Humanity (2007) Artist’s statement Bandhani is my traditional craft work and both my grandmother and my mother received National awards for their work. I have been in this craft since I was eight yrs old and learnt the art from my father who is a very skilled artisan. The theme of my piece is about saving trees. I have depicted the idea that when a tree is being cut it is equivalent to cutting a human being. Trees bring rain thus increasing the crop productivity. The work also shows the dependency of human life on trees. I made the figure of a man inside the tree so that my message is clear that when we kill a tree, we are ultimately putting an end to our own lives. I am keen to learn more about eco-friendly work methods especially in relation to waste and water saving and reuse and the impacts of Bandhani production on the environment.

Image: Detail from main work

Image: Khatri Mustak Alimamad


Artisan: Abdul Jabbar Khatri, Bhuj Age: 29 yrs Craft Tradition: Bandhani (traditional tie & dye) Medium: Natural dye on silk Title: Return to Roots (2006-7) Artist’s statement This was a family tradition many years ago but my father and grandfather shifted to other occupations. My brother Abdullah began the craft again in the family and due to my intense interest I learned from him. I began working at Bandhani when I was 14 yrs old. Natural dyes were a commonly used in the past but when new technologies came people switched over to synthetic dyes. These are easier and more affordable and the market demands their use. However this piece of work is my sincere attempt to put forward the art of traditional natural process with a modern perspective. This project has given me a chance to express my ideas and thoughts. It has given me an opportunity to think about nature and what have we done to it. I have done my best to make an eco-friendly product. Natural dyes are not easy to get or use and are time consuming but it is one way to save our environment and save our world.

Image: Abdul Jabbar testing natural dyes.


Artisans: Shamjibhai Vankar Valji and Dineshbhai Vankar Valji, Kachchh Age: 30 & 33 yrs Craft Tradition: Weaving Medium: Hand spun wool, natural dyes Title: Our Changing Earth (2007-7) Artists’ statement Weaving is our traditional art going back into history. My brother Dinesh and I have been weaving for more than ten years. We learnt from our family members - our father wove khadi cloth for Gandhiji and we still weave it for our own use. The theme of our work focuses on the management of natural resources. It is shown in five parts. In the first part we show that millions of years ago, the Earth was covered in ice. Then the formation of life began due to the balance in the environmental temperature. In the third part the Earth and the map of specific regions on Earth are shown. Then we depict the disturbance in the geological set up and also the effect of global warming due to environmental pollution and this causes natural disasters like flooding.

Image: Dinesh managing the indigo vat

Finally we highlighted the positive aspect of regaining environmental and ecological balance through the planting of trees. Trees bring life to all parts of nature. We have developed new techniques since beginning the project and used less water in our dying processes.

Image: Dinesh works on flying shuttle loom

Images: Condensed version and detail


Artisan: Vankar Murji Hamir, Bhujodi Age:35 yrs Craft Tradition: Weaving Medium: Cotton, natural dyes Title: Losing Ground (2006-7) Artist’s statement This is our traditional work that I learnt from my father and I have been weaving since the age of 15 years. I am proud to practice and conserve this art of weaving. For this wall piece I chose wet dyeing to retain the colour for a longer period. The theme behind my work is global warming. The increase in carbon dioxide level and other polluting gases in the atmosphere have resulted in increased temperature leading to melting of the snow caps in the polar areas. Global warming is a serious concern today. Through my work, I have depicted an increase in the expanse of the Rann, which has decreased our mangrove forests. The camels that feed on mangroves are also directly impacted.

Image: Murji and Losing Ground

In my piece I show the steps that can be taken to arrest global warming such as planting more local vegetation such as Jatropha and Salvadora which would arrest the spread of the Rann (salt desert) and increase the mangrove forest cover. I have also depicted the use of water transportation facilities so that the use of road transportation is avoided and emissions of polluting gases is lowered. Image: Detail conserving land


Artisan: Khimji Shamji Vankar, Bhujodi Age: 27 yrs Craft Tradition: Weaving Medium: Merino wool, natural dyes Title: Hands On the Future (2006-7) Artist’s statement My work tells the story of a small village surrounded by trees and fields where people once lived happily. They were engaged in religious activities at the temple in the centre of the village and social work amongst the community. Then the mill owners came and convinced the people that they should give their land for the mill and in return they would get work. The trees were cut to make room for the mill and at noon when the temperatures soared there was no shade. People were sad and sorry. Then a wise man gathered everyone together. They held hands to make a chain and decided to plant trees instead of cutting them. This would make their village green again. When I planned my work I thought about the pollution from the mill I decided to use less processed wool to reduce this pollution. When I gave my wool for dyeing I asked the expert dyer why the colours were not so bright. He explained that natural dyes have different qualities and are nonhazardous when used properly. The colours are in harmony with nature. I designed this piece to use less wool and only vegetable dyes. These small changes in my work will use fewer resources and help to reduce pollution.

Images: Khimji at his loom


Image: Family block in V & A collection, an Internet discovery!

Name: Khatri Irfan Anwar, Ajrakhpur -Kachchh Age:25 yrs Craft Tradition: Block Print Medium: Mashroo cloth and vegetable dyes Title: Trees = Water = Life Artist’s statement This is our family’s traditional craft and I learnt it from my father. I have been engaged with this work for the past twelve years. My exhibition work focuses on the past and present environmental status and its causes and effects on rural life. This is shown in three parts in the wall piece. At first I show a village with ample water resources and people enjoying nature in abundance. The trees grow and encourage rain and the village flourishes. Then the trees are cut for human use and there is a gradual decrease in rainfall that leads to the drying up of ponds. The fish have gone and the animals are thirsty. Finally you see the set up of industries that cause pollution gases and a rise in atmospheric temperature. With no rainfall, the water resources have dried up and people are migrating to other areas. My work carries the message to increase tree plantations as trees play a major role in maintaining the balance for human survival.

Image: Irfan Anwar


Artisan: Khatri Ibrahim Isa, Ajrakhpur - Kachchh Age: 36 yrs Craft Tradition: Block Print Medium: Natural dyes on cotton Title: The Value of Trees (2006-7) Artist’s statement This is our traditional craft and I have 18 years experience in this field. My piece of work depicts the three parts leading up to the present situation. NB Please read from bottom up. Part 1: A village is dependent on forest resources such as medicinal plants, honey and gum that also serve as their source of livelihood. As time passed people began cutting trees and making charcoal in order to earn more money. Gradually the forest cover is reduced and livelihood sources became scarcer, soil erosion increases and chances of flood increase. Part 2: Due to the excessive felling of local trees, the Rann (salt desert) area increases and people are migrating to other regions. Part 3: The benefits of forest cover and available forest resources before environmental destruction.

Image: Ibrahim and wooden blocks


QASAB QASAB is the production arm of Kachchh Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), a women’s cooperative venture for embroidery artisans. These exhibition pieces reflect issues embedded in traditional societies. Using the regional style of Sodha embroidery, the artisans expressed community concerns at changing social values while at the same time acknowledging the benefits of change. Artisans who created the works on the following five pages: Sakorba Indraji, Bajuba Paduji Chauhan, Keshaba Lachhmansinh, from Ashapar Village. Craft Tradition: Sodha embroidery: the style came with the Sodha community from Sindh, now Pakistan, who sought refuge in Kutch during partition and the 1971 Indo Pak war. Panel 1 Top: In our old culture all work happened in the village. All our needs were there. The weaver got wool from shepherds and wove cloth for our use. Carpenters took care of houses, tools and all our small household items. The potter made cups, water pots and plates from local clay. There was always milk and food for our children. People bartered. They exchanged goods and services. Farming gave two crops of grain every year for exchange. We were self-sufficient. Then money came. We needed cash for our daily needs. Now there is no milk – it is sold outside for cash to buy cloth as there are no weavers now. We buy plastic and metal and so now there is no potter and we have to travel far to buy things. Bottom: Marriage remains the same. It is our stable culture. The tree of life is very important to the family. Here we show the time after the wedding when the parents greet the couple. We pray to the home gods in the presence of the sun and moon and you see us having fun in the middle. There is joking to the in laws. We are happy.


Panel 2 (left) Top. In our old ways we made flour every day for roti. Every house had a grinding stone. We made the mat to put the fresh wheat ready for grinding. We had the clay storage pot for flour. The new flour mill came and has the electric connection. The man owns and operates the mill and we get fresh, small quantities every day. Flour is important. We make roti, we eat, we work, we eat and then we sleep.

Bottom. Here is progress. There is a traditional bungha plus a new house and school for the children. Education is very important to us. We have the bus station and buses come regularly to take us to the towns. Wood is still used as fuel and trees are very important for cooking and for beauty. We need good facilities and beautiful meeting places.

Images: Top, local miller Bottom, traditional grinder Left, Bungha, Ashapar (now used for storage)


Panel 3 Top This is our traditional handwork, The Toran is very important. It is a welcome sign for visitors. Our popular toys were made of cloth such as dolls and animals. We made cotton bags with good embroidery designs and also shoulder bags to give in dowry to daughters in law. There is simplicity in our tradition and we take pride in our work.

Bottom This shows the traditional way of embroidery that we use on our clothing. Our dresses and oudnis (shawl/veil) are simple and useful and we like to make beautiful with decoration. There is different dress for married and unmarried woman.

Image: Sharing stories about the work, Ashapar artisans


Panel 4 Transport Top Here are all the vehicles of the new world. There are accidents, casualties are more and people are sometimes killed. Speed is necessary because there is no time now. We have to hurry to go to far places to buy what we need or go to work. New transport also brings us many advantages of goods from many other places.

Image: Sharing stories about the work, Ashapar artisans

Bottom In the old world our transport was basic. People walked and we like to walk, to get outside in nature. There is time to talk and see the world around us. Sometimes when it was very far we travelled by horse and on special occasions such as marriages carts were used. We decorated our bullock carts with embroidered pieces and these hand made items are still part of our tradition. We called the carts that carried large supplies ‘goods carriage’ just as the trucks are called today. Even now the drivers like to decorate their trucks with colours and tassels and lights.

Image: New and old in the passing


Panel 5 Sustenance Top. Here are two parts of water accessibility. On the right there is a well and a village pond with much greenery. People drew water from the well and cattle took their water from the pond. There was a plentiful supply. Times were friendly when the water pots were full and the trees gave shade and coolness for swings and for animals. On the left we see that water is not under our control. The supply comes from the pipeline from far away. We do not know where. When the pipes break there is no water and we are waiting and waiting. People are not happy and fight when there is a water crisis. Now there are no more ponds and cattle rely on troughs. Here they are empty and only stones lie at the bottom. Cattle are waiting too. They are thirsty and sad.

Image: Water supply, Ashapar

Bottom. Here I show fast food and slow food. At the top is slow cooking with home made fresh ingredients. The materials are natural and we only collect enough food for our meals each day. There are no insects when food is all used. We had more time then for hand work and we enjoyed working together in the kitchen. Now we have fast food and hotel food that we enjoy because we do not have to prepare or clean up. Gas and electricity make the work easy but are not so clean. Food is not fresh when it is frozen or packaged and plastic packaging makes so much rubbish. Eating this way is costly and not so healthy. We get fat and sick sometimes from this food. In the end only we can decide which way is the best way.

Image: Traditional kitchen, Ashapar


An Unbalanced Life by Nilaben Bhimji

The Environment by Champaben Magan

Water Problems by Gangaben Ratilal

Water Harvesting by Nanuben Valji

A Green Revolution by Geriben Mansukh

The artisans who created these works are members of Kala Raksha an independent cooperative that works with traditional artisans to maintain tradition and develop products for local and international markets. Kala Raksha literally means preservation of art. Champaben, Geriben and Nilaben are part of the original group of 20 women from the village Sumrasar Sheikh where Kala Raksha began its operations in 1993. Gangaben and Nanuben joined some time later. All these women were originally Suf embroidery artisans who have now turned to patchwork and appliquÊ as the exacting nature of Suf is difficult after one’s eyes begin to change.


An Unbalanced Life by Nilaben Bhimji In the old days, people got up at 5 AM and worked hard. Women drew water from the well and carried it home. They ground grain by hand on stone mills and churned buttermilk with wooden churners. The men went to the field to graze the cattle. In the lower half I have shown where we are today. Now, we go by bus and truck instead of walking. We live in cement homes and need to use electric lights and fans. We eat in restaurants and use water stored in plastic tanks. People used to be strong because they did hard work. Now, they are enjoying more but getting sick. They have aches and pains and go to the doctor for any little thing. They can’t sustain their lives and they are not really as happy as they were.

The Environment by Champaben Magan We used to be farmers, but now people are selling their land to industries. Factories are coming up. Living next to factories and power plants, people work there and they get sick from the smoke. Factories and power plants also spew polluted water. That makes people sick. They have to go to hospitals. I have shown a doctor examining a patient’s lungs and the patients lining up at the hospital. The villagers themselves now make charcoal. There are no more trees, just bags of charcoal. Since there are no trees, small animals have no place to live. There is nothing to eat. The cows and camels are searching for food. And then when it rains, the creeks flood.

Water Problems by Gangaben Ratilal In our village, Sumrasar Sheikh, we have big water problems. The original water source has become saline. We have to go to the centre of the village to get water from a common well. It comes by a pipeline from far away, and sometimes it does not come at all. Then, we have to walk a long way to get drinking water. The local vadis (farms) are all saline now and have been abandoned. The water is so salty that it even makes soap curdle. So we have to walk to distant vadis to get water that comes from far away. It comes in a small pipe and we have to take it by little vessels so it takes a long time. When it rains, we can fill our underground tanks with fresh water and that gives us relief for a while.


Water Harvesting by Nanuben Valji

A Green Revolution by Geriben Mansukh

In the rainy season, if we make arrangements like check dams, we can harvest water. I have shown a dam filled up with water, with fish in it. Then, we can irrigate fields and grow wheat. With irrigation, we can grow enough to feed our families for a year or even two years.

When our environment is clean we can have gardens. We need fresh water for this. When the water and land are sweet we will have trees and flowers. Then birds will come to eat and enjoy.

The ground can be recharged too, and better used for crops. When the farming is good, people go to the fields and stay in their huts in their vadis (farms) and enjoy the open air.

When we learn what plants are good for us, we can grow the plants and herbs for natural remedies. Local remedies are often more effective so we don’t have to go so often to the doctor - and they don’t have side effects such as acidity, dizziness and rashes. People enjoy the natural environments of gardens, too. Children come and play and I have shown a swing and a slide in my garden.

Images: Details of appliqué technique


Artisan: Vakas Abdul Gafur Khatri, Bhuj Age: 20 yrs Craft Tradition: Bandhani Medium: Natural dyes on silk Title: Taking Steps to a Healthy Environment Artist’s statement Bandhani, traditional tie and dye, is our traditional art and I have been engaged with this since I was in class eight. I learnt my art from my Grandfather and my maternal uncle. Later I completed the design course at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. I have depicted the environmental conditions in the past, the present and in the future in the 3 parts of my work. The first part shows a pollution free environment with clean water, greenery, flowers, birds and animals.

Image: Vakas withe his masterpiece

The second part shows the present situation of a polluted environment. The third part shows the steps that can be undertaken to make our natural resources sustainable towards a healthy environment.

Image: Detail of work - each white dot represents a tiny knot!


Artisan: Aarif Haroon Khatri, Bhuj Age: 24 yrs Craft Tradition: Bandhani (tie & dye) Medium: Gaji Silk and synthetic dyes Title: Save the Earth (2007) Artist’s statement Bandhani is our traditional craft. I learnt my craft from my family members when I developed an interest from an early age while seeing others in my family tieing and dyeing. For the last seven years I have been wholly involved with this traditional art and have learnt so much during this time. My theme is ‘Save the Earth’. The work depicts the two faces of our Mother Earth- one showing its condition years before when there was huge forest cover, clean water and fresh air to breathe as depicted by the cool, safe green and blue colours of the planet. The other Earth is coloured red for heat and danger and shows the present situation due to environmental pollutants and the rise in atmospheric temperature. Through my work, I would like to pass on the message to increase the number of tree plantations to save the Earth and its environment from further degradation. Through this project I have learned to consider using natural dyes and managing water wisely.

Image: Arif with work


Artisan: Shamat Tejsi Marwada, Kukma Age:18 yrs Craft Tradition: Kharad weaving Medium: Local sheep wool, natural dyes Title: Trees are Life Artist’s statement Kharad is a Sindhi word that means carpet and is traditional to my family. It is one of the oldest forms of weaving made on a very simple nomadic loom. The loom can be easily taken apart and then set up again. I began to learn this craft from my father and grandfather after the earthquake in 2001 when we shifted to Kukma village from the border village of Kuran. My work focuses on the conservation of natural resources especially water. I made it keeping in view the environmental impacts on the famous Kala Dungar (the black hills of Kutch) when industries came into our area. Earlier, Kala Dungar was covered in green scrub forest. We had huge farm lands and animals had enough fodder. This is depicted in the lower part of the piece. The middle part shows the situation after the arrival of industries. The plants turned dry, trees were cut and birds flew away. This is woven in brown to show the dry bush and land. The third part shows a greener future with steps being undertaken to collect water flowing down from the hills and the use of renewable energies to achieve a cleaner environment.

Image: Shamat at the loom. Note the absence of heddles


Artisan: Aziz Khatri, Bhadli Age: 27 yrs Craft Tradition: Bandhani (tie and dye) Medium: Hand woven silk, natural dyes, found pieces Title: Balancing Nature Artist’s statement Bandhani is our traditional art as practised by most of my family members. I learnt this craft in a workshop organised by CCRT when I was in 6th standard and have been making for the last 15 years. The theme of my work is the planned and balanced use of our natural resources. We can generate energy from water, wind and sun. We must restrict the emission of polluting gases and stop cutting down trees as global warming has a huge impact on the Earth’s environment. When we are serious enough we will take steps towards achieving the balance by planting trees and using natural resources.

Image: Aziz with masterpiece

I have made use of waste materials such as bits of mirror, scraps of thread, woollen cloth and onion skins in my work to promote the use of waste materials.

Image: Found elements


Artisan: Vankar Chaman Premji, Bhujodi Age: 28 yrs Craft Tradition: Handloom Weaving Medium: Local plant dyes on organic cotton and silk Title: Margada - Knowing our Limits Artist’s statement I belong to a family of traditional weavers. My father and brother are master craftsmen and national award winners. We run the Handloom Design Centre, a school for training local youth in the traditional art of hand loom weaving. The centre carries out research and development in weaving, natural dyes and design. I completed the course in design at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. My exhibition piece has many meanings. Weaving is traditionally functional and the practical shape of the piece gives it many uses – head, shoulder or hip scarf, table cloth, carry bag, small blanket etc. I like to make practical items that are beautiful and soft. This work also reflects many levels of thinking. The patterns represent progress (step by step), traditions (triangles), intertwined (love – the ethos of the work) and in the centre are trees – the life of the planet. The borders represent our limitations – not to cross the line and take more than we need and the tassels are the blossoming. When we realise our limitations we will shine! Finally, this work is totally eco-friendly. It is woven from the finest organic yarns, coloured only by nature. Only a little water and energy are used in its production. My aim is to make work that sustains the environment and adds beauty to our lives. Before this project we were not ‘stingy’ with water. Now we are experimenting with left over dyes. After the dye bath has settled we use the water for irrigation and the sediment can be reused for dyeing softer colours as many as two times.

When we realise our limitations we will shine! Image: Chaman maintaining his indigo vat


Artisans: Meeraben Kanji Chhanga, Geetaben Vikram Balasara, Dhaneti Age group: 26-30 yrs Craft Tradition: Ahir Embroidery Medium: Silk embroidery on silk Title: Keeping Tradition Alive Artists’ statement The embroidery of our Ahir community is our traditional craft that we use for weddings and for traditional costumes to be offered as dowry. In the past we used cotton threads and now we use silk (rayon) threads. Geetaben was awarded the National Award in 2003 for her work. Our work shows the practice of Ahir work as a tradition that sustains us. It brings us livelihood and reminds us who we are. Our work has changed since the earthquake when we told our stories of survival and made narrative work for the first time. This piece also focuses on the journey of this community with Shrujan, the organisation that works to promote the crafts of Kutch and highlights the skill of each community as the pride of Kachchh. Kaka and Kaki Shroff came to Kachchh many years ago and helped the artisans during a bad drought. Now Kaka is head of Shrujan and this year she received the Rolex Award for Enterprise.

Images: Far right, Geeta renders herself in stitch Right, Meeraben (l) and Geeta(r) ben share the inspiration Left, detail showing fine stitching


Artisan: Vankar Ashok Dahyalal Kudecha, Bhujodi Age:30 yrs Craft Tradition: Weaving Medium: Wool and natural dyes Title: Save the Tree Artist’s statement Weaving is my community tradition craft and I have been a weaver for the past ten yrs. I learned from my family members and mainly from my father who is a national award winner. With his inspiration,and influenced by current design and fashion, we are now blending old and new tastes. We use both natural and synthetic dyes according to demand. My work is about saving trees. When I was planning the piece it made me think about the importance of trees and the major role they play in maintaining ecological balance.

Image: Dhayalal with masterpiece


Vivekanand Gramodyog Society (VGS) Artisans: Salim Sumra, Bhavesh Liya and Jagrutiben Vyas of Mandvi-Kachchh and Sufiyan Khatri of Ajrakhpur Age group: 24-26 yrs Craft Tradition: Batik Medium: Wax resist and natural dyes Title: Ayurveda Artists’ statement The idea of using hand print batik with natural dye came from Carole’s workshop for the project. This was taken up as an experiment and one that turned out to be a success. It was time consuming and expensive and we learned a lot in the process. Now we will do some follow up work, further experiments and test the market. This work emphasizes the importance and correlation of Ayurvedic trees and yoga for the maintenance of better and sustainable health. Ayurveda balances all parts of the human and natural systems.

Four people contributed to the work; Bhavesh Liya – wax painting Salim Sumra – dyeing Sufiyan Khatri - natural dyeing Jagrutiben Vyas – stitching. It was a perfect combination of ideas and skills and we learned much from each other. Image: A practiced hand with wax


Artisan: Devshi Govind Vankar, Mota Varnora Age: 42 yrs Craft Tradition: Weaving Medium: Wool and synthetic dyes Title: Homage to Ganesha Artist’s statement: I have been a weaver for the past 15 years after learning from my family members. A portion of my piece highlights the life of rural Kachchh in the past when people lived in a pollution free environment and depended on physical labour rather than use of machines. They had enough fodder for their animals, had their farmlands, food security and water in their wells. On the other hand, this piece demonstrates that cutting down trees has a drastic impact on the environment which is now being realized. I have shown a man who cuts down trees and then expresses his grief after realizing his fault and prays to God for forgiving him. He rectifies this by planting more trees.

Images: Top right, Devshi Govind Vankar Bottom right, preparing dye solution Left, detail of water transport


Artisan: Karim Mansouri, Mundra - Kachchh Age: 37 years Craft Tradition: Namda (felting) Medium: Local sheep wool, natural and synthetic dyes Title: My Traditional Life Artist’s statement In our family history my ancestors made items for the Maharoa’s horses and camels. Later, when there was no more work for us we turned to making cotton mattresses. I make Namda whenever I can but support my family by working as a carpenter. My three dimensional piece of work represents our traditional way of life with a mud bungha and a more modern stone house. The cactus is our common plant and the peacock brings great beauty and good fortune for all villages. The backdrop is the scene with our old city wall, a well and a plough showing our simple way of life. Mundra is now polluted due to industry such as power stations and our health is suffering. The land is also suffering and is not so fertile.

Footnote: Karim’s Namda is by nature an eco-friendly product. Made from unprocessed local sheep wool, very little water is used and the main colours are selected from the variety of colour in the fleece. Synthetic dyes are used sparingly for impact.

Images: Top, Karim lays the groundwork for a namda rug Bottom, detail of main work showing the range of colours in natural fleece


Three days of working together across traditions, communities, age and gender - a veritable patchwork of people, skills and inspirations that transformed and informed practice. Catalogue compiled, edited and designed by Carole Douglas. Photography by members of CEE India, Khamir CRC, the artisans and Carole Douglas. Documentation and translation of artisan statements are based on interviews conducted by Khamir CRC. This catalogue is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any other process with out the written permission of Khamir CRC. Email: khamir.craft@gmail.com Mark subject ‘To the Director’ New Voices New Futures is available for hire. Please contact khamir.craft@gmail.com or caroled@bigpond.net.au for further information.