Resurgence Catalogue

Page 1

Resurgence

stories of an earthquake, survival and art an exhibition of narrative textiles from Kutch, India Curated by Carole Douglas, Australia


Introduction On January 26th 2001 an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale ripped through the District of Kutch in Gujarat causing huge losses of life and property. While the official death toll now stands at 15,000, locals claim it to be much higher. More than 200,000 homes were damaged beyond repair and the interruption to livelihood was inestimable. In this drought prone land where farming is tenuous at the best of times, many small communities rely on the hand production of textiles as a major source of income. Resurgence is a response of the Australian community to assist those textile artisans who were badly affected Bhuj city April 2001 by the earthquake in their efforts to rebuild. Initiated at a public meeting in the community of Manly in New South Wales soon after the disaster, the idea for an exhibition was taken up by the Manly Art Gallery & Museum. Over the next two years, the community rallied in support of the project. Public events raised sufficient funds to support the exhibiting artisans while they prepared their work and local business and government also contributed. By the time the exhibition opened in April 2003 support had come from the wider Australian community; from textile groups; from private donations; from the NSW Ministry for the Arts and from the Australia India Council. Due to these efforts five artisans were able to attend the opening, participate in public programs and share their knowledge Rebuilding at Jatwali and skills with Australian textile artists at an international textile conference in NSW.

Photo © CDouglas

Photo © Judy Frater

During this period I visited Kutch several times for extended periods to work closely with the textile community to develop the project; to source artisans and to document their stories. My work was made possible by the moral support of my own community, friends and family, Indian NGOs and the people of Kutch who responded with genuine enthusiasm, unflinching dedication, generosity of spirit and utmost sincerity. The narrative content of the works in Resurgence was inspired by the artisans of Kutch themselves. Keen to tell their stories of survival and their hopes and dreams for Temporary shelter, Sumrasar the future to the outside world, they worked in an entirely new way and yet at the same time did not lose sight of the traditional techniques that have sustained them for generations. Resurgence was thus born and it is this very inspiration of combining new thought with ancient techniques that makes Resurgence an exhibition with a difference. But above all, Resurgence is an expression of the heart, a tribute to the power of creativity and a strong statement of the will and courage to survive. Carole Douglas Curator.

Photo © Judy Frater

Forward & back buttons

Tying for survival

Photo © CDouglas


Artist: Abdulgafur Daud Village: Nirona Craft tradition: Rogan painting

From Heart, to Head, to Hands, 2002 Courtesy of the artist

Rogan painting on silk: 115 x 153cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘This special work began in my heart with a feeling. Then it went to my head and it was like a computer whirring and ordering ideas. I thought about it until it came dot by dot from my hand to the cloth.’ Artist’s statement ‘All things come from the centre. In my piece it is Earthquake time 8.46am. People were gathered around India’s flag. From this centre I show the different phases of the earthquake and our future. The old city of Bhuj fell down and many monuments and buildings were destroyed. In the villages mothers ran to get children from school. Relief workers came with tents and food and people lived outside for a long time. NGOs built new simple houses. There was a resurgence in house design. My idea for Bhuj is to be a beautiful place - clean and colourful. The future school has computers. It offers a better education and opportunities to be professional people. When people travel to other places they will always bring their new experience back into traditional life. Traditional villages (top) are the healthiest and safest places. Making chas (buttermilk) is a traditional symbol of village life. The borders on this piece are about art and show the long and evolving history of Rogan work that has been in this family for seven generations. Sumar, my younger brother helped in the intricate work – we worked only one step at a time as we cannot afford to make mistakes!’


Artist: Adam Sangar Village: Mandvi Craft Tradition: Ari Embroidery

The Pain of the Rose, 2002 (detail) Courtesy of the artist

Ari embroidery, 122 x 103cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘Kutch was like a beautiful rose - a flower in the desert The earthquake came rumbling up through its stem and into its heart and caused the rose great pain.’ Artist’s statement ‘My region was like a rose before the earthquake. It was like heaven. Then something happened inside the earth and the pressure came up through the roots and stem and into the precious petals. It disturbed the rose. In the very centre we were celebrating Jan. 26th when the earthquake happened. We were deeply afraid. The fear spread. The noise was the worst thing. I will never forget the sound. Everything was disturbed - mosques, temples and houses. All life was affected. People wept because such helplessness was everywhere and such destruction. In old Bhuj where we lived there was too much damage and still two years later no government help has come. People stayed outside the towns and villages. Even now (2003) many are still in temporary shelters without facility of light and water. They see no good future for themselves. My family helped to design this special work. We all had many stories to tell of what we experienced in Bhuj. I was nervous making the work. Now I am proud that people in Kutch liked it so much and it will be seen in Australia.’


Artist: Dharamshi Keshavji Maheshwari Village: Ningal Craft Tradition: Single ikat silk Patola The Future in Tradition,2002 Single Ikat silk weaving, 196 x 120cm Courtesy of the artist Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘It is important that people in the outside world know about Kutch craft and the hardship we have endured.’

Artist’s statement ‘We had a hard time in the earthquake yet we have survived. Tradition and family strength carried us through. Life is not easy since that time and we dream for better days to come. My work is about the enduring strength of tradition as represented by the patterns found on the Chattris – the carved memorials to the old rulers of Kutch. Although the Chattris now lie in ruins the traditional patterns remain intact. The broken houses lie outside the squares. We were afraid to go outside then just as we are afraid to go too far outside tradition now. Inside the traditional square it is safe. I chose the colours to reflect the meaning of the work. Yellow is the colour of hope, Maroon is a holy colour and blue is the colour of deep thought of my mind in meditation. I like the way that this new piece looks like it is 200 years old because of the vegetable dyes. This work was a challenge to make. Everyone helped with the design. My brother Ranjibhai spent many weeks tying the weft threads ready to dye in natural dyes. Because I am used to working in chemical colours this took much time. Ismail helped us and was very patient. We used Indigo, pomegranate and madder which when dyed over each other made black. This is a miracle to me. My dream is to become a master of vegetable dyes.’


Artist: Khatri Ali Mohmed Isha City: Bhuj Craft Tradition: Bandhani

All three panels as installation.

‘The earthquake book is closed. I begin a new chapter. Using my work as my handwriting I invent a new language for the future’

Out of the Darkness, 2002 Bandhani (resist dying), 3 panels, 230 x 90 each panel Courtesy of the artist Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artist’s statement ‘For me the earthquake book is closed and I move on to a new chapter. This is my new work for new times as we move from the darkness into the light. My work is like writing a code. As I ‘write’ the dots into the cloth I ponder on the meaning of writing. I remembered when good ‘writing’ used to be made on a typewriter using carbon paper to make copies. My ‘writing’ pleases me and I want to make more copies so I have translated this idea of the carbon into my bandhani. My technique is new to these times. I have examined antique pieces in the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad and wondered how such a thing could be done where the reverse dots were a different colour. It took me many trials to perfect the technique. The middle (carbon) layer was first dyed red to represent the colour of life. The outer layers were left white, pure and unmarked. Then I ‘wrote’ on all three pieces together - a time consuming and difficult task to tie so many dots in so many layers. The fabric was then dyed black. The red transferred like an echo to the outer layers as soft pink while the outer sides stayed white. I have made ancient work possible again.’


Artist: Shamji Vishram Valji (assisted by family members Shamji, Ramji, Dinesh Vishram)

Village:Bhujodi Craft tradition:weaving

‘Weavers give warmth to others. In the beginning, Rabaris gave wool to the weavers to make shawls and in return the weavers were given wool to make blankets for themselves. We still work with others to sustain each and every person.’

The Whole World Coming Together in 2001 Threads, 2001-2002 Weaving, wool and vegetable dyes, 225 x 98cm Courtesy of the artists Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artists’ statement ‘Before starting the piece the whole family was thinking for almost one month. We decided to use 2001 warp threads in memory of the year of the earthquake. The design we wove into the warp is based on the many helping hands that came to Kutch from all over the world. The single units link to make the whole world community. We used natural dyes that Ismail prepared for us. This is a new direction in which we work in harmony with nature. The colours are of the sky and earth and trees - the colours of nature that reflect God. Whenever we work with natural colours we work with God. During the five months we were making this (we could only weave one inch per day) all the people from the village came and gave advice. Word gets around and because everyone knew that the piece was going to Australia they were keen to see that the work was the best possible to represent Kutch. Throughout the design stage our father guided us. In the beginning we were very confused about the complexity of work and we needed constant encouragement. I think God came and helped us to make this once-in-a-lifetime work. Each pass of the shuttle was a pass from God through our heart to our hands. Every morning we cleaned the work place and offered incense to the gods and made a prayer. The new loom was made in the name of peace. Where the threads were hanging from one side we did Puja (offering) to Ganesha each time we passed by. This work is a poem to the world. Resurgence is a blessing from our Australian friends.’


Artist: Dr Ismail Mohmed Khatri Village: Ajarakh Pur Craft tradition: Ajarakh printing

Spider, 2002 Courtesy of the artist

Ajarakh print, vegetable dyes, hand loom cotton 140 x 315cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘The spider is never defeated. When his web breaks he finds a new place and starts all over again. My family is like the spider. But this time we will build a place that will not break.’ Artist’s statement ‘My whole family took part in designing this piece. I asked my sons, nephews and brothers for ideas and we met many times to discuss. I made the final design and the piece was executed with the help of my brother Abdul Jabbar Mohammed Khatri, my son Sufiyan Ismail and my nephews Orangzeb and Abdul Rauf. I carved new blocks designed for this work. However, the traditional design that surrounds the panels was made with blocks that have been in my family for many generations. This same pattern is also found in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This work shows the time before, during and after the earthquake. It shows the old village at Dhamadka with narrow streets and unstable houses; it shows the terrible destruction and it shows how we have made earthquake-engineered buildings in our new village of Ajarakh Pur. The streets are wide for vehicle access and the trees will protect us from the unpredictable climate and act as pollution control.’


Artist: Yusuf Mansuri Town: Mundra Craft Tradition: Namda (felt)

Bhukamp: Broken Ground and Broken Lives, 2002 Courtesy of the artist

Raw felted wool, natural dyes 90 x 160cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘I was happy to be asked to make work for Resurgence. If I do not make Namda the art will entirely disappear from Kutch.’

Artist’s statement ‘My work is from my imagination. My town was not very disturbed by the earthqake so my piece is made up of things I saw with my own eyes when we went outside to help others and some which were told to me by other people. I set the story in the natural environment. Nature is important. It gives us life as well as death and is very beautiful. The sun sets and rises again. Life goes on for animals and they are important to us. The birds continue to fly and the cows and goats and donkeys wander. In amongst this a disaster happens. The doctor is attending a patient in a temporary shelter. A stone mason is repairing the house and workers are busy mixing mud. The funeral procession is Hindu. They are carrying the body to be cremated. The priest is carrying the fire. So many people did not have proper burial or cremation. The earthquake came so suddenly with so much destruction people did not have time to do things in the usual ways.’


Artist: Iqbal Hussen City: Bhuj Craft Tradition: Ajarakh Printing

My Kutch is Always Beautiful, 2002 Courtesy of the artist

Ajarakh print, 94 x 142cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘I learned a valuable lesson from the earthquake – to work hard and save money for the future so when bad times come I will have backup.’ Artist’s statement ‘I thought about the contract and read it carefully according to the theme. I remembered how it was before the earthquake and then I thought about the earthquake and its impact. I also thought about my future and what surrounds it. We lost our home and factory in the old part of Bhuj but we are thankful to be alive. I translated all three ideas into wooden printing blocks. This is a new way of working. I have not made stories in my work before. I was excited at this new way of working and would like to continue but I could only do this if I am asked to. I understand that I am an artist and would like to improve but lack of money prevents this. My work shows life before the earthquake. Not symmetrical and not clean. Not enough water and everything is primitive. When the earthquake came the sun went black. All of our buildings collapsed and many people died in the streets near us. We were lucky to escape. Many people had to live in the open air. Relief came with food and tents. It was a year before our factory and homes were repaired. In the meantime we worked outside. Now we must build Kutch to be beautiful again. With separate buildings for separate uses. We will learn to save water and store it properly. People will come from the rest of the world to see our beautiful Kutch. We must have political, educational, technical and agricultural progress (see panel bottom left) if Kutch is to prosper.’


Shrujan - Threads of Life. The family trust of Shrujan has been operating in Kutch for more than 30 years working with tribal women to preserve and enhance traditional embroidery. This area has a rich material culture of embroidery that has been handed down from mother to daughter for generations immemorial. Each group and community in the area has its own particular style of embroidery and lexicon of stitches and motifs. Currently Shrujan provides work to 3,500 women from 100 villages and since 1969 it has trained 18,000 women in embroidery, or business, or both. By adapting traditional craft with contemporary taste, Shrujan has ensured that the work is easily marketable. Currently (2002) Shrujan works with 15 different embroidery styles and has been instrumental in ensuring that some of these have been revived from near extinction. Sonal Maniar of Shrujan, worked closely with the following two artisans to produce the exhibition pieces. Manjula and Geeta were chosen for their youth and to provide them with an opportunity to create something entirely new. The artisans recieved the money directly from Shrujan who then helped each young woman set up her own entrepreneurial business.


Artist: Geeta Kanji Changa Village: Dhanate Craft embroidery: Ahir

‘When this opportunity came to make this work and get paid I saw it as sign from God that my life will change.’

Geeta Kangi Changa: Time Stopped at 8.46 am Ahir embroidery on silk, 130 x 98cm Courtesy of the artist and The Shrujan Trust Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artist’s statement ‘I was on my way home from the temple at the time of the earthquake. As I left the temple I passed an old lady doing prayers. When the land began to shake I thought I was ill. Then I saw the warrior stones falling down and the cattle running like crazy beasts and I realised that something bad was happening. People shouted at me that many houses had collapsed so I ran home quickly. We lived outside for many months with the other villagers. I am one of the lucky ones. The old lady was killed at the temple when the dome fell on her. I often think about her and how one minute she was alive and a few seconds later she was dead. I did not get a new house in the village of Ram Krishna. Instead I prefer not to depend on outside help and to remain in my mud house at Dhanate. When Shrujan asked me if I wanted to take part in the exhibition my mind went blank. I did not feel confident to express myself in this way although my head was filled with images. Then I saw that Manjula had started her work and I realised I could also do this. I started by looking at photos and copying and I failed so I just imagined and a chain of ideas came and I could not stop! I really liked working this way and have many more ideas now.’


Artist: Manjula Naran Shamaria Village: Sumarasar Sheikh Craft tradition: Ahir embroidery

‘Before I made this work I could not forget the earthquake. Now it is out of my hands and I can move on with my life.’

Earthquake Summary, 2002 Ahir embroidery on cotton, 108 x 77cm Courtesy of the artist and The Shrujan Trust Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artist’s statement ‘I am currently completing my Bachelor of Arts in Sanskrit. At time of earthquake I was staying in the girls’ hostel in Bhuj. I was lucky to escape when the building collapsed. Many of my friends died that day. I saw so much destruction in Bhuj that it stayed in my mind for a long time. It was easy to have ideas for the work but I was not that confident with figurative work as I have never done it before. Once I started drawing I realised I could do this. There were so many images in my mind from those first few weeks. Now I have made this work I am very confident and have ideas for further work showing Kutch life. My mother is a master embroiderer. She taught me and now guides me with the intricate stitches. Geeta and I are planning to set up an entrepreneurial business with our artists’ fees under Shrujan’s guidance.’


KMVS (Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan) Representing 35 embroidery artisans from 6 communities. KMVS, established in 1989, is an organisation of rural women from the arid border villages of Kutch District working for their socioeconomic development and empowerment. KMVS has 8000 members of which 1500 are traditional craftswomen, organized and operating as producer groups. Working as a collective (Sangathan) KMVS focuses on issues of health, education, environment, savings & credit and livelihood. The members take pride in their traditional craft and look at it not just as a means of livelihood, but also an expression of their art. Together, they embroider, design, innovate, produce and market- as entrepreneur-artisans under the identity called ‘QASAB’ ( meaning crafts-skill ). At the end of the year, they share a part of their profits as dividends and plough back the rest of the money earned into their business. The members decide how and in what form this dividend should be distributed. In 2002 they decided to distribute this payment as gold jewellery (a highly prized liquid asset) to replace what was lost in the earthquake. KMVS works through close and constant contact & interaction at grass roots level. Its main strength is reflected in the way all communities come together for special occasions such as the day their art piece was handed over. Process ‘The creation of this piece was accomplished in the true spirit of the Sangathan. Three workshops were held to conceptualize their expression of ‘resurgence’ after the devastating earthquake. The first was an open forum where 35 women aged from 16 to 60 came together to discuss making work for the exhibition Resurgence. Though each of the women could have made individual pieces in their own community’s traditional embroidery/applique styles, the women unanimously decided to work together. In true spirit to reflect their togetherness, they saw this as an occasion to show the outside world the meaning and strength of their Sangathan. They had closely worked together as always to recover and rebuild their homes and lives after the earthquake. At this first workshop they decided to create one large piece (2m x 4m) on which all communities would be represented through the manifestation of their different arts, but as a symbiotic whole. The second workshop dealt with fears about working to this scale. After looking at the actual size cloth they decided they could do it! They then work-shopped ideas about the theme and how it would be accomplished. The final workshop brought together the best designers from all communities. For the Jat women who usually never leave their communities to work, it was a new experience. Two experimental panels were made that day and the best of both became the basis for the final piece. The women decided that logistically it had to be made at the Bhuj headquarters. Thirty five women committed to working two or three hours a day on the piece. To help them balance family responsibilities with the project KMVS organised transport to and from the outlying villages. A series of smaller workshops followed in which the ‘broken’ parts and new bunghas were solidly embroidered to predetermined size. It was a new experience for the artisans to design an ‘object’ in traditional embroidery motifs and speak about the earthquake and their experience of resurgence. The applique women completed the bonding. The strong primary colours were chosen by the designers to reflect the attitude of the Sangathan and its members attitude to survival.’ KMVS Facilitator: Meena Raste


Artists: Women of Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan District of Kutch Craft embroidery: Jat, Pakko Neran, Mutwa, Rabari, Applique

Unity in Sangathan, 2002 Courtesy of the artists and KMVS

Embroidery and applique, 190 x 397cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artists’ statement ‘This is an important thing we have done. In the earthquake we momentarily forgot our skill and now we are reviving it. There is unity in this work in the way we have all worked together to achieve this result. In the three months we worked on this piece we have learned much about each other and our different skills. We made the earthquake part small (represented by abstract embroidered shapes indicating that although buildings were broken tradition remains) because we wanted to focus on the future and not gloom over the past. This work is our collective dream. Before the earthquake we all used to live together in congested villages and because of this many people died. After the earthquake the new village comes. It has space and although people are living some distance apart they are close enough for community. Tolerance is important. Hindu and Muslim are peaceful people and can live together. The camel is carting stone for new buildings. We do not want noisy trucks. The man in the Sumo jeep with the bag is from an aid organisation who is supporting rehabilitation. He carries the money and we use it wisely. The new bus stand is where our transport is. Buses are how we get around although we now see many scooters in Kutch. We have made a new school where children of all communities learn together and about each other. The pond, our traditional water source, is repaired and we must look after it as we did in the past. Our work shows the strength and beauty of each of our communities, Jat, Mutwa, Meghwar, Sodha-Rajput and Rabari. We have used our finest embroidery skills to make something new and unique out of tradition. We are proud that our work is being seen in other countries. We are proud to be Kutchis.’ Collective voice of KMVS


KMVS (Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan) Representing 35 embroidery artisans from 6 communities. KMVS, established in 1989, is an organisation of rural women from the arid border villages of Kutch District working for their socioeconomic development and empowerment. KMVS has 8000 members of which 1500 are traditional craftswomen, organized and operating as producer groups. Working as a collective (Sangathan) KMVS focuses on issues of health, education, environment, savings & credit and livelihood. The members take pride in their traditional craft and look at it not just as a means of livelihood, but also an expression of their art. Together, they embroider, design, innovate, produce and market- as entrepreneur-artisans under the identity called ‘QASAB’ ( meaning crafts-skill ). At the end of the year, they share a part of their profits as dividends and plough back the rest of the money earned into their business. The members decide how and in what form this dividend should be distributed. In 2002 they decided to distribute this payment as gold jewellery (a highly prized liquid asset) to replace what was lost in the earthquake. KMVS works through close and constant contact & interaction at grass roots level. Its main strength is reflected in the way all communities come together for special occasions such as the day their art piece was handed over. Process ‘The creation of this piece was accomplished in the true spirit of the Sangathan. Three workshops were held to conceptualize their expression of ‘resurgence’ after the devastating earthquake. The first was an open forum where 35 women aged from 16 to 60 came together to discuss making work for the exhibition Resurgence. Though each of the women could have made individual pieces in their own community’s traditional embroidery/applique styles, the women unanimously decided to work together. In true spirit to reflect their togetherness, they saw this as an occasion to show the outside world the meaning and strength of their Sangathan. They had closely worked together as always to recover and rebuild their homes and lives after the earthquake. At this first workshop they decided to create one large piece (2m x 4m) on which all communities would be represented through the manifestation of their different arts, but as a symbiotic whole. The second workshop dealt with fears about working to this scale. After looking at the actual size cloth they decided they could do it! They then work-shopped ideas about the theme and how it would be accomplished. The final workshop brought together the best designers from all communities. For the Jat women who usually never leave their communities to work, it was a new experience. Two experimental panels were made that day and the best of both became the basis for the final piece. The women decided that logistically it had to be made at the Bhuj headquarters. Thirty five women committed to working two or three hours a day on the piece. To help them balance family responsibilities with the project KMVS organised transport to and from the outlying villages. A series of smaller workshops followed in which the ‘broken’ parts and new bunghas were solidly embroidered to predetermined size. It was a new experience for the artisans to design an ‘object’ in traditional embroidery motifs and speak about the earthquake and their experience of resurgence. The applique women completed the bonding. The strong primary colours were chosen by the designers to reflect the attitude of the Sangathan and its members attitude to survival.’ KMVS Facilitator: Meena Raste


Contributing Artisans Village: Kuran, Community: Meghwal Craft embroidery: Pakko-neran Popabai Deshar age 18 Lachhubai Vera age 20 Himabai Duda age 20 Bayabai Deshar age 40 designer Village: Jam Kunaria, Community: Meghwal Lalaben Khamu age 50 designer Village: Dhrobana, Community: Meghwal Craft embroidery: Kambhiro Namabai Bijal age 35 Village: Khavda, Community: Meghwal Puraben Rana age 32 designer Village: Rudramata, Community: Meghwal Craft embroidery: Pakko-neran Jivaben Lakha age 45 Sarabai Dhara age 60 Puraben Deva age 20 Kesubai Uka age 18 Village: Ashapar, Community: Sodha-Rajput Craft embroidery: Pakko-neran Sakorba Indrasinh age 25 Paduba Gemarsinh age 35 Ganguba Balwantsinh age 25 Keshaba Lakshmansinh age 22 Sakorba Chatursinh age 27 Village: Dhora, Community: Mutwa Craft embroidery: Mutwa Satarabanu Amad age 25 Nasarbanu Khunan age 27 Village: Fulay, Community: Mutwa Craft embroidery: Mutwa Fatmabai Jarad age 40 Niyamatbai Fakir age 23 Hakimabai Razua age 22 Shobhanibai Noormamad age 23 Village: Jaday, Community: Durbar - Rajput Craft embroidery: Applique Waktuba Devaji age 32 Naniba Bhojrajji age 38 Devuba Dhanuba age 38 Naniba Bhagwanji age 28 Village: Kharadia, Community: Rabari Craft embroidery: Rabari Meguben Budha Rabari age 48 Bharmiben Ashar Rabari age 28 design & emb. Deviben Jesa Rabari age 30 designer Himaben Mitha Rabari age 18 Vijuben Budha Rabari age 18 Varjuben Budha Rabari age 20 Village: Tal, Community: Jat (Danetha) Craft embroidery: Danetha Jat Budhibai Bhachiya Jat age 48 design Riyatbai Sapariya age 40 design Zubedabai Ashraf age 20 Jenabbai Arif age 22 Romibai Janmohmad age 23 Maghabai Azab age 35 embroidery Sajnabai Halim age 30 embroidery


Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Years ago, SEWA took up the challenge to help the unprotected informal sector workers, providing them with means of achieving full employment and social security. In 1972 SEWA registered as a trade union with its main goal to organise women workers for self employment and self reliance. SEWA is both an organisation and a movement of self employed workers where the women themselves lead the way to becoming strong and visible. Today thousands of women are economically self relaint and more importantly - are empowered. They now have a choice and also have control over their own livelihood. They are free from the clutches of exploitative traders and middlemen. Sewa was early to realise the potential of craft production as a source of ensuring sustained livelihood and a disaster mitigation tool during the worst ever drought in 2000. This was immediately upscaled after the Kutch earthquake in 2001. In this context, the need to expand the marketing efforts at the national and global level emerged and SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre in Ahmedabad was thus created. During the relief and rehabilitation process following the earthquake SEWA provided temporary housing to thousands of its members and gave work to sustain them. Recognising the opportunity provided by Resurgence, the organisation gave the project its full support. The Process SEWA organised and ran a live-in workshop with 13 of their selected artisans, a designer from Ahmedabad and the curator. On the first day the women discussed their ideas and then on the second day, for the first time in their lives for many of them, they drew. On the third day they discussed how their drawings could be translated into exhibition works. Later we visited each woman’s village to record her story. As you will see in te following pages, the artisans ranged in age from 18 to 72 years. SEWA paid the womens’ wages with the artists’ fees from Australia and the balance will be used for a design workshop at a future date. For further information visit SEWA’s website at www.sewa.org/


Artists: Jyotsanaben Kiritsingh & Kalpanaben Rajvibhai Rathod Village: Muru Embroidery Style: Rabari

Jyotsanaben Kiritsingh ( R ) and Kalpanaben Rajvibhai Rathod (L) Rabari embroidery, 2 panels, 85 x 61cm and 94 x 60cm Photos courtesy Chris Whiting

Looking Behind and Ahead, 2002 Courtesy of the artists and SEWA

‘We found the idea hard in the beginning when we were talking but when we made our pictures and samples we were very happy. It is a good way to work.’ Artists’ statement ‘We worked our designs out together so they make a whole story and decided to look at the dark and light side of Muru. You can see the differences. Jyotsanaben’s story is about the day of the earthquake. It was dark because of the dust. The sun was very sad looking down on all the destruction. The animals fell down and our big drinking water tank was cracked like the ground. One woman was getting water and fell down and she was hurt. The trees broke and all the leaves fell off. Nature was disturbed and people were very scared. For me the earthquake is over because I am getting married soon. Marriage is a bright future full of life and hope. It is a new beginning that we will all celebrate with dancing and music. The sun will smile on us and the tree will flower as we celebrate. I have asked Carole to come to my wedding and share in our joy just as she came to share in our sadness after the earthquake.’ Told by Kalpanaben


Artists: Fulaba & Kailasba Village: Khombhabi Craft Embroidery; Neran

Fulaba, Prediction ( R) and Kailasba, Aftermath (L), 2002 Courtesy of the artists and SEWA

Neran embroidery, 70 x 50cm Photos courtesy Chris Whiting

‘In our village not one person was killed by the earthquake. I believe that our prayers at the temple will keep us safe from harm.’

Artists’ statement ‘We always knew an earthquake was coming. It was forecast by Mekan Dada, a holy man who was born in our village. He predicted that all of Kutch would be destroyed with only a few survivors. He said that Bachau and Rapar would be razed and that Bhuj would be like a graveyard and we would see only one light in the darkness. We live in fear because it will happen again. I was in the school preparing for the celebrations when the earthquake struck. We could see nothing but the dust. The sun went black. Scorpions came from the ground. People were hurt but miraculously no lives were lost in our village. We believe that Mekan Dada kept us safe because this is his birth place.’ Told by Fulaba


Artist:Meghuben Rabari Village: Morghad Craft embroidery: Rabari

Keep Me Safe, 2002 Rabari embroidery, 84 x 56cm Courtesy of the artist and SEWA Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘Fear is in my heart. My community helps me to be strong. Community is my safe place. It is the place of tradition.’

Artist’s statement ‘The earthquake caused me much fear and I am still afraid. I was sleeping with my small children when the earthquake happened and I do not live in that house any more. work is about my community. It shows Rabari tradition and strength. The husband and wife are the support of the family. Without both the family is weak. My community is built on family. The elephant is part of our distant royal past before we came to Kutch. It is also a symbol of Ganesha our god of happiness. My

The camel celebrates our heritage. We are the original camel herders who migrated from Rajasthan. Even now Rabari still migrate with their camels in search of water and food. The peacock is our splendid bird. It gives brilliant colour in the desert. It brings me joy when I see it. The tree is of greatest value in the land of Kutch. It gives food to the animals and shades them from the sun. It is the symbol of living nature. At the top are my places of safety. The bhunga is the centre of my family. We Rabari decorate our homes with mud and mirror work. We like our homes to be places of beauty. Our houses are very clean and cool. The temple is the most important place in my life. It gives me strength. I enjoyed making the work especially creating new designs with my own hand. My daughter is a very good artist. She likes to draw and we can create new things together.’


Amjiba Pirdansin Sodha Village: Ghichido Craft embroidery: Sodha applique

‘Even though I am very old my eyes are still keen. I like this work very much. It gave me an opportunity to remember my life.’

The Tree of Life and Death, 2002 Applique on calico, 150 x 106cm Courtesy of the artist and SEWA Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artist’s statement ‘My work is two halves of the tree of life (and death). Everything in my village is in this piece. One side is before earthquake when everything was alive and happy - it is green and pretty. Birds are drinking from a pot, all the forest animals came, even the panther. People are happy in our village. The clouds bring good rain. After the earthquake everything was dead. Big snakes were disturbed and came from under the ground. The black snake - kombaro - is very poisonous. Debris was all over the ground. Ghichido became alive with scorpions and snakes that are bigger and more poisonous than anywhere else in Kutch. The panther came at night to kill the cows and goats. He was hungry also. There was no rain. No monsoon came that time. The world outside is a bad place. My grand daughter has a television and she tells me such things. The earthquake was a wake-up call to sinners.’


Kala Raksha Kala Raksha, meaning ’art preservation’, is a small independent grassroots organisation based on self-help community development through existing traditional skills. With the earthquake of 2001 Kala Raksha took on new and unexpected responsibilities for coordinating the rehabilitation of its artisans. Process ‘Thanks to the Australian community for this precious opportunity. What a learning experience for all! Although traditional textiles are not generally personally expressive, on the encouragement of Carole Douglas, we asked volunteers to make pieces that narrated the experience of the earthquake and the year following for the exhibition Resurgence. We did not intervene in any way. We simply said, “Do what you feel; there is no right or wrong in this project.” The only restriction we placed was that they do original work. Our artisans amazed us with their genuinely creative approaches. Women worked without regard for time or money, focused on expressing themselves. As one woman said, “It is not that we had nothing to say; we just did not know how to say it... we pondered, ‘what to say and how to say it....’” What they created was new and exciting for all of us. Women have since asked us if they can do more narrative work. Through this experience we have been able to develop the art of craft which will enable preservation of embroidery traditions in a new and meaningful way. The Manly exhibition has given us an opportunity to begin.’ Judy Frater, Program Director Kala Raksha artisans ranged in age from 16 to 61 years.


Artists: Lachhuben Raja and Rajabhai Pachan Village: Bopa VandhCraft Embroidery: Rabari

‘By the grace of God we were saved. We are lucky. We don’t need anything. We don’t want anything. Give to those who need it.’

The First Few Days, 2002 Rabari embroidery, natural dyed cotton, 56 x 76cm Courtesy of the artists and Kala Raksha Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artists’ Statement ‘On the day of the earthquake the ground shook and we were afraid. Rajabahi and I were on a bus on our way home to Vandh we did not know what was happening. We thought the driver was driving badly. There was so much damage everywhere else yet nothing happened to us - just a few cracks. We were afraid of retribution - of what might happen to us! Later people were coming with relief stuff and we did not take anything from private individuals because we did not need it. When Kala Raksha came we told them to take their things where they were most needed. Later when the government came the men got together and decided to take a few supplies like food and tea and tarpaulins while we repaired the cracks. A few people got compensation to repair their houses. Some got new homes when before the earthquake their houses were broken down anyway. We slept outside for 2 months because when we heard bad stories about other places and we were afraid that the earthquake might come again. Rajabhai and I believe that you get what is written in your fate. Everyone does not get the same and what do we know about God? The earthquake happened naturally and in life things happen suddenly and without warning or reason. Innocent people die along with sinners. There is no corner on sin. Our work tells the story of the days following the earthquake in Vandh.’


Artist: Meghiben Rupabhai Village: Sumrasar Sheikh Craft embroidery: Suf patchwork

‘We were spared. No-one in this village died – God was good to us.’

Broken Things, 2002 Suf Patchwork, 141 x 69cm Courtesy of the artist and Kala Raksha Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

Artist’s statement ‘This is how our house looked before the earthquake. My daughter in law and grand-daughter were helping to make patchwork for Kala Raksha. My older son was at the wadi (water hole) when the earthquake happened. The wadi is very green with castor oil plants. The motor and the water pipes broke. When the cow, calf, buffalo and baby cat came to drink water there was none. The fields dried up. All the houses fell down. We were sitting at Shamji’s house cooking Rotla (flat bread made with millet). We were very hungry because we had been awake since early morning. That is me cooking. We stretched fabric for shade. The earthquake caused the animals to make much noise. They knew something was going to happen. Dogs gave warning. Vaishali and Mamta were screaming that rocks were falling. Nobody died in our village but I know many people died elsewhere. We gave food to the pigeons and the turtle was there and the frog. The cow ate cactus! Here are all my kitchen utensils and pots of water. We put together fallen stones to make a hearth.’


Artist: Pabiben Soma Village: Kukadsar Craft embroidery: Dhebaria Rabari

Black Day –2001, 2002 Courtesy of the artist and Kala Raksha

Rabari embroidery, 61 x 66cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘For a while we lived like nomads like our ancestors. We moved around a lot and slept outside.’

Artist’s statement ‘I used different colours for the different parts of the story of the earthquake. The green is my house and my mother is calling me for a cup of tea. When the earthquake came everything turned black. The yellow part is when we were living outside. It was hard and everything got dirty so we covered our belongings with a blanket. This is how it was when we were nomadic people living outside and moving all the time. The white is clean place when we went to stay with our relatives. We kept our things inside the house and slept outside in a tent. We were still afraid it would happen again.’


Artist: Kamuben Deva Rabari Village: Kukadsar Craft embroidery: Dhebaria applique

Anything can Happen, 2002 Courtesy of the artist and Kala Raksha

Dhebriya applique 112 x 112cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘When I am outside the village I am afraid of what might happen. I only feel safe when I am at home with my family.’ Artist’s statement ‘Before the earthquake everything was fine. Mummy and grandmother were outside. They were going to sweep the yard. My grandmother was going to get cow dung (top R). I was cleaning inside the house. When the earthquake came I had no idea what was happening. I was crying and screaming and my grandfather said don’t worry it is only an earthquake (bottom R). This shows my house broken and the blocks falling and the house badly cracked (bottom L). Someone was coming to help and when they saw the blocks falling they ran away. Outside we kept the water pots kept on the cot. Only the doorway was left of the house. My brothers were playing around the open doorway. That is my aunty in white and my sister in black (Top L). The main effect of the earthquake is that before it happened we had no fears. Now we know anything can happen at any time so we don’t trust any more. We have lost our innocence. We used to go out without worry. Now we like to be home by evening and when we are all here it is fine. We always feel like being with the family. It feels safe.’


Artist: Raniben Ratilal Bhanani Village:Sumrasar Sheikh Craft embroidery: Suf Patchwork

Hearth to Hearth, 2002 Courtesy of the artist and Kala Raksha

Suf patchwork, 96 x 106cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘We made many hearths those days. Each one gave us warm food and warmed our bodies. It was cold at night after the earthquake.’ Artist’s statement ‘On the day of earthquake the milk spilled off the gas in the kitchen. My daughter-in-law ran to get her small boy. We ran to the gate and stood under the Neem tree. It swayed and we held each other for support. Everyone slept outside that night outside at Meeraben’s place. It was very cold. I made a hearth in morning to keep warm. I made 2 hearths in that place. I slept on the cot and we made a temporary kitchen and everyone cooked. Judyben came on the same day with her bag and a big bottle of Bisleri water. Four families were living together. I went out to help with relief work. Every night we slept in a different place in the open. The whole village was afraid so we went right outside to the edge of the village. My son Prakash was listening to the radio for news. We made another hearth. Kala Raksha’s jeep came driven by Meghiben’s son Shamji. He brought tarpaulins. Tents came later with Judy on the cart. Everyone had their own area to sleep. Mornings were so cold but the hearth kept us warm. We just kept moving like nomadic people from hearth to hearth. We were sleeping with weapons because we were afraid of thieves and our houses were open. Finally tents came and we put one up in our yard where I made another new hearth.’


Artist: Fatmabai Ahmed Siddique Village: Jatwali Sumarasar Craft embroidery: Garasia Jat

Safe Places, 2002 Courtesy of the artist and Kala Raksha

Jat embroidery, 54 x 102cm Photo courtesy Chris Whiting

‘We put a lot of effort into our work. Because we had the experience of the earthquake we could think about these deep feelings.’

Artist’s Statement ‘When the earthquake happened we felt devastated. We did not know what had happened and were confused. Our houses were gone and we thought we would starve. Kala Raksha soon came with blankets and tents and food. Then we were afraid because we did not know how we would move ahead. We felt incapacitated. Judy said “Don’t be afraid. Fear will get you nowhere. You will have to work.” But we had no house how could we work? We could not see how we could get back to where we were before the earthquake. Then Kala Raksha gave houses and once we started working on them we knew how we would survive. I embroidered my house with a black outline because when the earthquake came everything became dark and dull. The earthquake has changed my life. I now know fear and that anything could happen at any time. Then I realised that ultimately it is up to nature and we were saved by God’s grace. No person in our village died - not even a dog. I am grateful. After the earthquake we could not sit in one spot. We built something then tore it down and moved on to another spot. Everyone felt they were waiting for a time when they knew the danger had passed. Because of Judy the whole village was treated equally - everyone got a house. We decided ourselves on the design and size of the house. Because we decided to share with the whole village in the end everyone got a slightly smaller house.’