Weave of Life Catalogue

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The Weave of Life Zindagi jo Vanat By kharad weavers Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada Curated by Carole Douglas

Acknowledgements I wish to acknowledge the artisans Tejsi Dhana Marwada and Samat Tejsi Marwada and family for their dedication and for sharing their lives with generosity and warmth. Thanks to Bondi Pavilion Community Cultural Centre for accepting my proposal and to director, Elizabeth Reidy, for helping to get the show on the road. I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of the following people: Rohini Kotak, Madhapar village, who in true spirit inspired the artisans to commence work. Ranju Mayecha (late) for her companionship and humour during many visits - I will miss you sorely. Kuldip Gadhvi for his intuitive translations and energy and for being my ‘stand-in’ during my absence. Umar Sama driver, teacher and friend of twelve years and into whose hands I willingly put my life. The many friends in Kachchh who helped me to navigate tricky local pathways. Amit Dasgupta, Consul General of India, for understanding the work that I do in India. Jenny Templin, colleague and friend, for sharing her love of India with openhearted trust. Mike Sloane, husband and partner who balances my life and my books with unflinching patience. The muse who lures me into uncharted territory and gives me the courage to proceed.

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Carole Douglas Curator

Image: Looking towards the Great (White) Rann of Kachchh


Right: Tejsi Dhana Marwada Left: Samat Tejsi Marwada

Zindagi jo Vanat The Weave of Life Kharad weaving by Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada


Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hirjat muje kutumb ji varta - My community migration . . . . . . . . . Muja tre ghar - My three homes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Muje pe-dade jo ghar - My family home Muja tre ghar - My three homes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mujo dhartikamp puthiyajo ghar - My temporary home Muja tre ghar - My three homes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mujo vanatkam karejo ghar - My weaving home Paramparagat kheti - Traditional farming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vakhardo - Tilling the soil Ramol - Monsoon or organic farming Vadhh - Harvest Min - Monsoon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dhole ramnu - Dance to the drum Varsa na vadhamna - Greeting the rain Kudrat jo anukaran - Following nature Vinya - Marriage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ganesh sthapna - Good luck for the groom Ujavani - Ceremony Jamanwar - Feast Tehvar - Festival . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bhukamp - Earthquake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Santulit karnu - Restoring the balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kantado - Annoyance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Muje vadilego bhatayel rasto - The way of my ancestors . . . . . . . Parampa jo sanman - Honouring tradition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soke batth ran mein vasant ja rang - Colours of spring in a drab land Bangles, beads and bharat (stitch) Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Zindagi jo Vanat - The Weave of Life Community, challenge and change

The inspiration for this exhibition arose on a summer afternoon in 2008 during a conversation with weaver Tejsi Dhana Marwada in his newly completed weaving shed at Sanjotnagar, a village built by donor funds after the 2001 earthquake. The air outside had just topped 45 degrees but we were comfortable enough beneath the thatched roof and an occasional draft, wafting through the loosely woven walls, dried the skin. Sparrows chirped overhead and hanks of freshly dyed wool hung from the eaves along with the nest of a weaver bird. We were a long way from Tejsi’s original home in the hills but his heritage had travelled with him; camel straps lay across the charpoy on which I sat; neatly wound balls of spun goat hair were piled on the floor and the loom that had I first seen in the ruins of Tejsi’s former home was strung in readiness for new beginnings. It was same loom on which he wove his masterpiece for Australia while camped on a hillside two aptly bent boughs lashed together in the manner of his ancestors when they migrated to Kachchh and put down their roots in a place they named Kuran. Nestled between the White Rann and the Black Hills of Kachchh, Kuran is the last village before India’s border with Pakistan 40 km to the north. It is in the heart of camel country and at one time was a main centre of ‘kharad’ (carpet) weaving - a technique that traditionally uses camel wool and goat hair to create carpets of strength and beauty. Tejsi Dhana Marwada learned the craft from his father Dhana Haja Marwada (this last name, Marwada, refers to their ancestral home of Marwad in the Thar Desert region). The name accords them their identity and is the binding force that keeps a small community intact regardless of distance and changing circumstances. 02

I met Tejsi and his family for the first time in 2001, a few weeks after the devastating earthquake that destroyed their home and forced them to flee eighty miles to the outskirts of Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kachchh. Eighty miles may not seem a great distance to us but in Kachchh it can also be measured in the distance between two worlds; one that is rapidly developing with little regard for the past and another that clings to the past in the belief that tradition will sustain it. Kharad weaving is an ancient technique and Tejsi and his son are amongst the last few remaining practitioners in the region. They struggle to defend their art and at the same time booming industrialisation tempts younger artisans such as Samat with the promise of higher daily wages than the craft sector offers. It is a fine balance between sustaining traditional craft and sustaining family needs; the local market is little interested in the struggle of crafts such as kharad weaving and ultimately their very survival depends on a wider and more appreciative audience. The first champion of their cause was Rohini Kotak, Kachchh crafts expert, who insisted that kharad weaving be represented in the Resurgence project. We all met up on a hillside and drank chai under another thatched roof and spoke about the future. Samat was then a twelve year old schoolboy and beginning to learn the rudiments of the family craft while the entire family was busy creating a new life. However, even in times of disaster, land laws apply and earthquake refugees were to be eventually returned to their original villages. The family’s saving grace came in the form of Sydney photographer, Jenny Templin, who raised funds during an exhibition at Bondi Pavilion that contributed towards the purchase of land where they could be secure.

It is from this land that the pieces for The Weave of Life were created. For almost three years Tejsi and Samat painstakingly created a series of rugs in which they articulate much that is important in their rapidly changing world. The results speak for themselves; the carpets highlight environmental and social issues; their iconography carries tradition into the future and the pieces are tangible evidence that public money was well invested in an endangered craft and in the wellbeing of its practitioners and their community. Yet there is another layer to this work. The carpets carry a further storyline embedded in their warp and weft the narrative of the ‘cradle to cradle’ ethos of production. Each carpet is created entirely from natural fibres which are hand spun, coloured with plant dyes without the aid of harmful chemicals, all surplus liquids feed the family plants, no conventional energy is used in production and at the end of its life each carpet can be safely returned to the earth from which it came - surely a text for the times in which we live. The stories on the following pages are told in the artisans’ own voice and are presented as accurately as resources allowed. Between the artisans, their extended family, translators and myself we travelled many story lines of Kachchh as we talked, listened, recorded and checked and double-checked in person, by cell phone and later by email. We trust we represent them well. It is therefore my privilege to present The Weave of Life by Tejsi Dhana Marwada and Samat Tejsi Marwada whose work is a testament to endurance, creativity and skill. Please enjoy the fruits of their labour and support their efforts to keep tradition alive and moving forward with the times - there are many stories yet to tell. Carole Douglas, May 2011


Dyed by Tejsi, from left to right: Indigo, pomegranate, catechu, lac and pomegranate on local ‘desi’ wool 2010

Curator’s note Natural Indigo is derived from the leaves of the plant Indigofera Tinctoria. Today, due to cost and availability most dyers, including Tejsi, use synthetic indigo which has the same chemical properties as the plant based dye. Pomegranate rinds yield a range of yellows, catechu (wood of desi babul tree - an acacia) yields browns and reds are obtained from Lac - an insect extract found on local trees such as neem, desi babul and peepal. Mordants include various plant and mineral compounds. 03

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Hijrat muje kutumb ji varta - My community history 162 x 224 cm Sheep and camel wool (natural colours)


Hirjat muje kutumb ji varta - My community migration Read carpet from bottom to top

This woven story records the history of my family and my community. It is the story of migration from our original home and our journey to our new home. It also talks about settling in the new land. We put much thought into this piece and many family members were consulted. We wove this according to the way of tradition - in natural wool without the use of dyes. Our community migration began about 600 years ago in the place called Marwad on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. We were traditional farming people who bred cattle, sheep, goats and camels and lived simple lives. Drought was a continuing problem for us and lack of water made life hard. Donkeys worked our wells and carried water long distances back to the village but in the end constant drought forced us to move. Our animals were dying. We migrated west towards the northern part of Kachchh in search of fodder. Many different communities migrated at that time including Rabari and Ahir. We knew about the grasslands further west and that is the direction we followed. We crossed through Banaskantha along the edge of the River Banas which flows towards the Rann of Kachchh. We finally settled in Kuran between the Black Hills and the Great Rann of Kachchh. Then the land was green. The Sindhu (Indus) river flowed close to Kuran and gave sweet water for humans, animals and crops. We had no fear in our hearts and we easily settled into the new land.

The grasslands fed only cattle and we were rich in milk - the cow is real Kachchh culture, not buffalo. In those times there were no personal farms and there was enough for everyone. Life was simple. Our animals thrived and we prospered. We first built our temple to Ramdev Pir, our main saint. Our ancestral worship is important and we celebrate Ramdev Pir’s birthday and still regularly go on foot to worship at his temple near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Ramdev is an incarnation of Lord Krishna. He was born in a Harijan’s house and had many powers which he used for helping the lower caste people which is why he is important to us Harijans and even to Muslims who called him Pir. Krishna is also an important god and we celebrate his birthday too. The bunghas were built from local stone, mud and trees. In the evening when the day’s work was done and the ‘chas’ (buttermilk) was churned we sang ‘bhajans’ - our thanks to god. The music and instruments came with us - the stringed ‘santar’ and finger cymbals ‘manjira’. At that time we had strong social connections to Tharparkar in Sindh and shared many traditions but when India became two countries our trading networks and marriage relationships were broken. The old men still sit around talking about past times and the children continue to learn from them. Although our lives are different now due to progress my family keeps to the old traditions and simple ways of life.


Sumar Vagha, Kuran, on the day that he sang a family legend to the children 2011


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2009 Muje pe-dade jo ghar - My family home 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac


Muja tre ghar - My three homes Building a new life

Muje pe-dade jo ghar - My family home I was born in 1968 in Kuran, a small village in the remote northern part of Kachchh called Pacham where I lived and worked as a weaver until 2001. Although I no longer live there it will always be my real home. Most of my relatives still live in Kuran or in nearby villages. There are two communities in Kuran - Marwada (Megwhal) from Rajasthan and Sodha from Sindh (Pakistan) who settled there many years ago. I was told the community history from an early age and learned the names of my ancestors going back eight generations and I repeat them to my children. Before partition separated our country we had strong social and trading ties with Sindh and people frequently travelled across the Rann by camel. Due to these old connections with Sindh we have good relationships with the Muslim communities that live in this part of Kachchh. My grandfather told me many early stories about the comings and goings across the Rann. He died in 1987 and I have vivid memories of sitting with him outside the gates of Bhuj and not being able to go inside because we Megwhal (Harijans) were considered a backward class. Today I am proud of being Harijan. Kuran relies on small scale agriculture and animal breeding for its economy. Some men now work in the factories that have come to Kachchh since the earthquake. At that time most of the houses in Kuran were destroyed and many people left and

settled in other places. Industry came and attracted people from the outside who have different behaviour and there are now social problems. Some good things happened for us because of the earthquake. The army came and supplied a water tank and the women can now gather water in their own village when before, they had to walk almost four miles to the next village, Dhobrana. Even today life is simple in Kuran and although people are poor the feeling is satisfied. Our people are not so knowledgeable about the outside world. The women still wear traditional dress and make embroidery for dowry and household use. We were once camel people and had big herds but camels are not much used these days except by the Border Security Forces to patrol the border areas. Goats are the most common animal in the village and my great uncle, Sumar Vagha, is the only person I know who still spins goat hair. Although there are new style buildings in Kuran we still have many traditional structures such as the fodder storage places called ‘khanni’ and thatched shelters for shade. A few bunghas are left and are mainly used for storage. Many neem trees grow in the village and provide shade in the summer. The leaves are used for medicine and to sweeten water. Curator’s note Kuran is located within an archaeologically rich Indus Valley site. Excavations are currently underway.


Top to bottom: Glimpses of Kuran


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Mujo dhartikamp puthiyajo ghar - My temporary home 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac


Muja tre ghar - My three homes Building a new life

Mujo dhartikamp puthiyajo ghar - My temporary home I met Caroleben for the first time when she came with Rohiniben a few weeks after the earthquake that destroyed Kachchh. Rohiniben knew my work and was helping Caroleben with a project for artisans affected by the earthquake. She thought I should make a piece for the exhibition in Australia called 1Resurgence and so they both met me. At that time we were living on a hillside near the village of Kukma about 20 miles from Bhuj. We had lost our home in Kuran, there were many aftershocks and my family was afraid. After many weeks of searching I found this place on a hill where there was grazing for the animals and a water pipe close by that gave us fresh clean water. My children began going to school in Kukma and I was close to Bhujodi where I could sell my work. Because of the earthquake no visitors were coming to Kachchh and times were very hard for our family and for many others. In my work you can see Caroleben arriving in Umar’s Ambassador car. She is wearing jeans and carrying her camera and is following Rohiniben. I am doing ‘Namaste’ to greet them and my wife Sajana is hurrying to boil the milk to make chai for the visitors. The cow is busy eating and my kids are happy to see somebody from another country. My oldest daughter is collecting water to wash the cups. You can see that we have made bunghas for sleeping and a shelter for weaving. We were very happy in this new place and wanted to stay there

permanently. Caroleben was learning our language from Umar and she called the place ‘Lilu Drasia’ which means green view and the name stayed. One day I asked Caroleben if she would ask the 2Collector of Kachchh if we could remain living there. She later told me that the government was going to force people to go back to their villages and that I might be safe for only a few months. I was then worried. She said she would try to help. I met her several times over the next few months and things began to change on the hillside. Land was cheap to buy after the earthquake and the Gujarat government was offering tax free business to encourage the economy. A new factory was built on our grazing land. It was noisy. We could not easily get to our water supply because of a deep drainage trench and people were coming to live close by. It was no longer peaceful or green. We prayed that God would help us. But I always remember laughing about the name Lilu Drasia and enjoying good times on the hillside. It is where I made my Resurgence rug ‘From Kuran to Kukma’ which described my journey after the earthquake to find a safe place to live. Curator’s note 1Resurgence, Manly Art Gallery & Museum 2003 Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya 2006 Acquired by CSMVS 2008 2Collector is the District Magistrate who oversees the laws of land and property.


Top: The houses at Lilu Drasia 2001 Bottom: Sajana, Samat, Tejsi in partly built bungha 2004


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Mujo vanatkam karejo ghar - My weaving home 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool, goat hair with indigo, pomegranate, lac


Muja tre ghar - My three homes Building a new life

Mujo vanatkam karejo ghar - My weaving home When Caroleben told me she had been given money to help me buy land near Kukma we were all very happy. I know that she asked for advice about the money because so many people needed help after the earthquake. When it was agreed that I could buy land Rohiniben’s husband did the legal work and in September 2003 I was handed the deeds to a plot of land at the back of Kukma village. It was good land but we did not live there land and only sometimes worked on it. There were many reasons for this. I was offered a house by an NGO at the new settlement of Sanjotnagar also near Kukma but on the other side of the highway. It was difficult for us to stay on the other land and as we had no money to build a bungha there we accepted the house. I was worried about what Caroleben would think and we did not see each other for a while. Then after some time I met with her and Rohiniben to explain my situation. She understood and said that she just needed to know so she could tell her Australian friends what was happening. Caroleben has been visiting Kachchh for many years and knows that things sometimes take a long time to happen. She told me not to worry. Then in 2007 I had the opportunity to exchange the land for a plot of the same size opposite my house in Sanjotnagar. This is now my permanent work place and it is the best solution. We have a place to live and a place to work. Everyone is content. My son Hirabhai goes to school nearby and sits in the

weaving shed to do his homework. Everything we need is close to us and life is easier these days for the whole family. This carpet shows my new home of weaving with my family at the top - from left to right; me Tejsibhai, my wife Sajanaben, my son Samatbhai, my daughters Devaben and Jetaben and my small son Hirabhai. Sometimes Sajana spins ‘desi’ (local) wool for our use. I do my dyeing work outside and you can see the results hanging along the walls. I taught myself how to dye natural colours and I use indigo for blues, pomegranate for yellows and overdye those two for greens. I use lac for red, sappan for pink and ‘desi babul’ for pale brown. These are all from nature in India. The mordants are natural such as tamarind seed. All other colours come from the natural wool; grey, black, brown, beige and white. I use local wool for traditional rugs but it is coarse and harder to dye. The best wool for dyeing comes from Rajasthan. The camel wool comes from Sodha communities in Jura village where it is collected, cleaned and spun. The black goat hair comes from Kuran. Samat and I are working on a traditional design on our nomadic loom while Sajana spins wool. We are productive on this new land. Samat is getting married in May and we pray that the work we have will help to keep him working as a weaver. In the future we plan to build another shed for dyeing and a new loom so we can expand the business.


Top: The dyer’s workshop 2009 Middle: Working on the nomadic loom 2010 Bottom: Sajana spinning local wool 2009



Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Vakhardo - Tilling 65 x 127 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Ramol - Organic farming 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Vadhh - Harvest 65 x 127 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Paramparagat kheti - Traditional farming Following the ways of nature

Vakhardo - Tilling the soil It is necessary to keep the soil free of lumps in the rows between the crops so that the air and water can flow easily. This is done in two ways; by hand and hoe or by bullock and blade. Farmers leave enough space between the crops to allow the bullock to move along and break up the useless earth. This improves and strengthens the land so the crops will flourish. Ramol - Monsoon or organic farming As soon as monsoon begins everyone stops their usual work. Women put away embroidery work and needles and thread are exchanged for seeds and hoes; men get busy preparing the camel or bullock ploughs in readiness for work. We leave our homes for the fields. It is our only chance to grow food during the year and we make the most of this time. Women clear the fields and bring food for the men while they are ploughing; ‘bathu’ is the meal and the woman who brings it is called ‘batharan’. Women also sow the ‘desi bhajra’- local millet - seeds in prepared rows and later they clear any weeds. In our organic system it takes four months for the crop to mature. Chadyo - the scarecrow - frightens the ‘hola’ (small doves) that can easily destroy the crop. I believe in decentralised farming. It is the only way that we will be self-sufficient. Organic farming is best for us as it is our natural cycle of production. Farming is more difficult now because of changing weather and land issues.

Vadhh - Harvest When the grain is finally ripe we harvest by hand. We winnow it to get rid of any dust, leaves or insects and then rake it and transport it in sacks by bullock or camel cart to our homes. The grain is stored in large clay pots off the ground so mice cannot eat it. We grow crops for our own use and not to sell. Our main crops are ‘bhajra’ which we use to make our flat bread called rotla; ‘moong’ which is used in our ‘sabji’ vegetable stew; sesame ‘tal’ for cooking oil and for making ‘chikki’ special sweet and castor plant. Castor ‘eranda’ is used to oil our hair, to keep the insects out of the grain and to polish leather. When monsoon does not come or is less due to climate change we have to buy our grain although we always prefer to grow our own. Curator’s note When monsoon arrives major embroidery and craft cooperatives prepare their customers to expect a slow-down in production. At this time food security takes precedence over stitch.


Top: Camel cart carries fodder Kuran 2011 Middle: Traditional bullock team Banni 2008 Bottom: Devaben prepares rotla 2010



Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Dhole ramnu - Dance to the drum 65 x 127 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Vasna na vadhamna - Greeting the rain 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Kudrat jo anukaran - Following Nature 65 x 127 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Min - Monsoon Rain is life

Dhole ramnu - Dance to the drum When it rains and the local stream runs and fills the village pond the drummer walks through the village beating his drum loudly. This is a signal for everyone to gather at the overflowing pond. A holiday is declared to celebrate the rains and the ‘sarpanch’, village leader, throws a dry coconut into the water. The children are excited because whoever finds it gets the prize! We then colour each other with ‘gula’ and dance to the drum. It is a happy time when we harvest sweet water direct from the rain. Women collect it for their homes, animals are satisfied and children play in the pond. Banni people have a saying that if the cow’s hump gets darker before it rains it is the sign of a good monsoon. This is our Kachchhi tradition. Varsa na vadhamna - Greeting the rain In Kuran at village level we build ponds to stop the water wasting into the Rann. The surrounding land is nourished, becomes green and supports life and farming. We first dig a hollow and edge it with local stone. There are still teams in the Banni area called ‘Aabath’ who volunteer their labour when people call for help to make their pond. It is our traditional system of giving. Many ponds are named after their builders such as ‘Hake Varo Tobho’ meaning Hake built this pond. In this way they are remembered always for their gift. Many of these ponds still exist in the jungle and are known to the Maldhari - the shepherds. I have promised to take Caroleben to find such a place one day but the Maldhari in this area are shy of strangers and we must take care.

Kudrat jo anukaran - Following nature Rain falls on Kalo Dungar (the black hills) and flows from there into the great Rann of Kachchh where it merges with the salty surface. Fish somehow appear in this temporary saltwater lake and some Muslim communities go fishing. Wild donkeys and camels come to the edge of the lakes to bathe in the salty mud. The coating helps the animal to resist mosquito attacks which are a threat to them. We copy this medicine invented by wild animals and take our own animals to bathe. It is our way to observe nature and follow it for the health of the animals that we live with.

Curator’s note Banni Pacham is a drought prone region with an annual rainfall of less than 300 mm per year.


From top to bottom: Monsoon breaks 2010 Fresh water meets salt Rann 2008 Wild camels 2010 Traditional water storage pots Kuran 2009


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Ghanesh sthapna - Good luck for the groom 65 x 127 cm 16 Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Ujavani - Ceremony 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Jamanwar - Feast 65 x 127 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, lac

Vinya - Marriage According to our tradition

Ganesh sthapna - Good luck for the groom Our traditional weddings are two days of celebration. On the first day, the day before the marriage ceremony, the groom sits at his own home with his sword. He is fed traditional rotla, (flat bread). The male guests arrive on camels and after greeting the groom they put money into his hand. Later they all travel to the bride’s village. The family of the groom invites 25 extended family members to participate in the wedding. This is called the ‘jan’ and is our old Marwad tradition that we still keep alive. When my son Samat gets married we will honour the same traditions. He will carry the sword which I used in my own marriage to Sajana. Ujavani - Ceremony The ceremony takes place on the second day. The bride’s family builds a special place we call ‘mandvo’. It has four pillars and a bright coloured fabric roof and torans decorate all four sides to welcome the guests. When the groom arrives his mother-in-law removes the bad energy from his head. She then welcomes him to the family by marking his head with red paste, ‘kanku’, and then adds rice to that with her second to last finger. The couple then go to the ‘chori’, the place specially decorated for the marriage. The bride and groom are tied together by the ends of his turban and her saree by the priest who makes the special knot that joins them. The bride then leads the groom three times around the fire and then the groom leads the bride once around the fire.

There are special prayers that bind the couple in marriage which, in our community, is for life. After the ceremony there is local folk music and dancing for men and women. Clay pots are used to beat the rhythm and we dance Raas - our traditional dance with sticks or platters. When we went to Kuran recently we stopped at Khavda where I bought a clay pot from Abdullah for Samat’s wedding. When Caroleben asked why I had chosen that pot I demonstrated its good sound. Jamanwar - Feast After the wedding ceremony the guests are fed. Our traditional feast is masala rice with our favourite sweets, ladoo and siro. We like a mix of sweet and spicy. Guests arrive on camels and sit in groups of four or five and share one dish amongst themselves. This is the way of our community. Later the bride and groom travel to the groom’s home. Before she enters his family home the bride puts red powder on her feet to leave the footprints of Lakshmi, our household goddess of prosperity. Curator’s note Megwhal weddings in Kachchh generally take place in the summer month of May. Marriages are arranged by the parents between families of the same community and some time is taken on both sides to find a suitable match. Tejsi comments that since people have moved away from their former homes old traditions are less valued and separation and divorce is becoming more common.


Top: Tejsi with family sword 2010 Bottom: Tejsi with clay pot Khavda 2011


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Tehvar - Festival 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo, pomegranate, sappan, lac


Tehvar - Festival Honouring the gods

Festivals are an important part of our community life. They are the times when we remember our gods and goddesses and enjoy being with our family and friends. The two festivals in our community which are most important to us are Holi and Diwali - the festival of light. Holi Holi is celebrated in the Hindu month of Fagan Punam (full moon) which occurs in February or March when winter finishes and summer begins. This depends on our lunar calendar. The two day festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The first day ‘Holika Dahan’ is the evening of fires and we carefully build our bonfire during the day from dried cow dung and wood. Every person brings fuel for the fire until it is a high pyramid which is on the bottom half of the rug. We also have fire crackers on that night. The fire represents the story of Prahlad who was born to do good things in his life. His father was an evil king who wanted him destroyed and asked his sister Holika to kill him. Holika had a gift. Fire could not harm her. She went into the fire with Prahlad on her knee but she did not know that her gift worked only while she was alone. She died in the fire and Prahlad survived. The morning after the bonfire night people throw brightly coloured powder at each other. Everybody joins in this fun and we wear our old clothes. Traditionally we used a natural pinkish red colour called ‘gula’.

Diwali Diwali is the beginning of the Hindu New Year in honour of Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years in the jungle. In our community it is a four day festival when we worship money and also the monkey god Hanuman to keep evil energy away. Many times you will see the priests walking on the road with Hanuman masks and tails. Children also dress as Hanuman. The night before Diwali is celebrated during ‘amass’ (black night) when there is no moon in the sky. Our houses are decorated and we burn many small oil lamps to light the dark night. In the towns people hang strings of coloured lights. Fire crackers explode in the night and wake up the gods. We make ‘rangoli’ - decorations - on the ground in front of our doorways to welcome the goddess Lakshmi who brings us wealth. The next day is celebrated during ‘echam’ the first day of the new moon and an important community day. We bless our elders and they bless us. We greet our neighbours ‘Ram Ram’. We exchange gifts and fire crackers add to the fun.


Top: Holi in Sanjotnagar 2011 Bottom: Local village rangoli 2010


Tejsi Dhana Marwada 2010 Bhukamp - Earthquake 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool, goat hair with indigo, pomegranate, lac


Bhukamp - Earthquake Random memories of a survivor

26th January 2001 When we were talking about ideas for Weave of Life in Australia we had many ideas and Caroleben suggested that we might like to tell a story about the most important event in our lives. I thought of the earthquake because the memories of that day will never go away in my lifetime. Many thoughts and images stay in my mind. Some of these I saw myself and some were told to me by other people in my family and I have shown these.

When my bus arrived in Bhuj I could see how big the earthquake was and was very worried about my family back in Kuran. I could not enter Bhuj because of the damage. The police would not let anybody inside so I travelled to my friend Shamji’s home in Bhujodi. That village also was destroyed and I wanted to go home immediately. First I got some rides and then a bus but I had to walk many miles to reach my home that night. I have made my foot step in the dust.

The earthquake started somewhere in the Rann of Kachchh close to Lodai and made huge cracks across the surface. I was on a bus on the way to Bhuj with some rugs to sell when it happened and saw the cracks appear in the land and great clouds of dust in the distance over the city.

I saw many terrible things while I was walking. The worst was seeing hands sticking out of the ruins of buildings. There was nothing I could do and nobody was there to help anyone until the army came.

Back in Kuran my family was eating breakfast because it was a holiday and everyone was at home. My family told me that when the shaking started people ran and were hanging onto trees to stop themselves from falling over. The camels were very afraid and many ran off into the Rann. Some came back and some did not return. Many of the houses in Kuran were made of stone and mud and most were destroyed. A few people were hurt but by God’s grace nobody was killed. January 26th is India’s Republic Day and begins with a flag raising ceremony at nine o’clock in the morning. The earthquake happened just before nine o’clock on this day ten years ago and when we raise the flag we will always remember.

Bodies were placed on carts and taken for cremation straight away without any priest or ceremony. It was a bad time for us to learn of these things especially as we are Hindu. The big lesson from that time is that our traditional mud and stone round houses with thatched roofs (bunghas) do not fall over so easily. They are naturally earthquake proof and if they do collapse people are not hurt because the materials are not heavy. Sticks and mud will not injure.


Tejsi Dhana Marwada in the ruins of his home Kuran 2001

Curator’s note Time: 8.57 am January 26th 2001 Intensity: 8.7 on Richter scale Duration: 90 seconds Toll: estimated 25,000 deaths (Govt. 13,000, local 40,000), 100,000 + casualties, 200,000 + homes de21

Samat Tejsi Marwada 2009 Santulit karnu - Restoring the balance 95 x 165 cm Sheep and camel wool with indigo and pomegranate


Santulit karnu - Restoring the balance The younger generation speaks

When I think about what is important to me I think of the changes that are happening in our environment. Changes such as the weather and pollution and rubbish lying around. I come from a traditional culture. It is a simple way of life. Animals provided many things for us - transport, milk, wool. Not so long ago we lived in balance. We grew crops. We had enough to eat. The land was green and life was in harmony with nature. We managed our water and our needs. Life began to change after the earthquake. In the ten years that have passed much industry has come to Kachchh. I think it is uncontrolled development. Pollution comes from chimneys into the air and the water is polluted from chemicals. Everything is dark now. Much of our traditional land is sold to big companies and many trees have gone to make way for factories. Trucks damage the roads and cause accidents. People from outside Kachchh have come to look for work and we now have crime. There is a bromine plant near Kuran and you can smell the chemicals for a long way. I think it will harm the White Rann because they dig ditches into the salt but people are divided in their thoughts. They earn money working in factories. They do not think about the environment. I believe there is a better way to do things. Our future way to survive is to use solar and wind energy. Suzlon is a big wind turbine industry here in Kachchh but we still make huge coal fired power stations that destroy our coastline.

Many artisans talk about the changes and the way they are affected. We learned to think differently after the New Voices New Futures project - how to manage our water, to use less, recycle it and keep it clean. When we look after nature then nature will look after us. It is the proper balance. The way I work is not demanding on the planet or harming the environment. My materials are from nature, from the animals and plants we care for and we use no electricity. In my personal life I watch no television, I do not eat meat or drink alcohol. We do not need much to be healthy and happy. My work shows how to restore the balance in nature. We can use solar and wind energy to manage our energy needs. We can look after our water by recycling it. We need to plant more trees because trees are life. Curator’s note While Samat emphasises that he has had no formal education in science he has an innate understanding of the ways in which man and nature must work together to achieve balance. His knowledge is rooted in observation, proven in practice and supported by traditions based on survival. He recently planted trees on the family land that will benefit their health and environment, aid in dyeing processes and add beauty to the surroundings.


Top to bottom: Coal fired power station under construction 2007 Sun sets on wind farm 2008 Government sign Kalo Dungar 2010 Samat nurtures his environment 2010


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2009 Kantado - Annoyance 92 x 164 cm Reused plastic bags


Kantado - Annoyance Problem plastic In 2007 Samat and I took part in a project called New Voices New Futures for a sustainability conference in Ahmedabad. We attended workshops to discuss the environment and to understand sustainability. We talked about the way that the environment is changing and the way that people make it worse or can work to improve it. Many artisans came to the workshops with a lot of experience. We talked in groups about the way that we work and how we can save water and energy and use natural materials and reduce our waste. Many good ideas were shared. When we were asked to make a piece of work for an exhibition at the conference Caroleben encouraged us all to use waste materials that were found in our surroundings. I wove a bag out of plastic bags that we found lying around our community. There were hundreds of them.

we used 5 kg of bags. Plastic comes in so many colours we can weave just about any subject. At the bottom of this piece is the idea that our world is turning into a plastic world. Then you see all the waste plastic lying in nature where the animals can eat it. Finally the person is very upset because a cow has died from eating a plastic bag. It took a long time to make this work as plastic is very hard to weave. We can make many items out of waste plastic and that is a good way to use it again but one day we hope there will be no more plastic left for making into bags!

Plastic is a huge problem in Kachchh. Everywhere you look there are plastic bags blowing about, caught on branches and blocking drains. They spoil the beauty of our natural world and harm the animals. Cows cannot digest plastic and when they eat the bags they often die. We collected our plastic from Kukma village and from the local people. Caroleben warned us not to use food bags for health reasons but said to use anything used for clothes and clean items. We rinsed the bags in neem water, dried them and cut them into strips ready to weave. In one small woven bags there are about 200 bags. In our carpet alone


Left: Recycled plastic shoulder bags 2010 Photo: Urs Buhlman Top: Plastic sorted for weaving 2008 Bottom: Aala (brother) and Tejsi Dhana 2009


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Muje vadeligo bhatayel rasto - The way of my ancestors 122 x 192 cm Black sheep and camel wool (natural colours)


Muje vadilego bhatayel rasto - The way of my ancestors The story of kharad weaving

Since man and animals began coexisting the fur, hair, wool and skins have been adapted and used for shelter and clothing. Gradually different crafts developed as technology advanced. In early times the Bhil community from the Thar Desert area used to weave in this style but this stopped long ago. We did have woven unwashed cotton in the early days but it was so rare that one cotton wedding costume would be handed down through many generations. Weaving came with us from Rajasthan. We had many techniques for making essential items. The udder bags for camels and tiffin bags were knotted and our camel straps were split-ply work. Sacks for carrying grain were tightly woven with goat hair as both warp and weft. The weave was thus water and insect proof and no grain could escape. Many people in our community were part of the weaving process because our relationships with each other were close. Camels were clipped (in early summer) and the wool cleaned, spun and twisted into hanks. Goat hair was clipped, cleaned, twisted and plied. My father’s uncle Sumar Vagha is the last person spinning goat hair. He does this every day and most of it he gives to the family. The rest he sells for 100 rupees per kilo. Sodha people in Jura village now supply us with the camel wool. Traditionally kharad (Sindhi word for carpet) were used for warmth on floors and for special gatherings of people and meetings. People would bring their rolls of carpets for an important occasion to give comfort as well as to show respect. Camel

wool and goat hair are very tough fibres and these carpets lasted a long time. Now collectors from other countries want to buy the old ones. In the last ten years since industry has advanced our handwork is in less demand. Raw materials are also scarce. Camel wool is harder to source as camels are no longer in so much use for transport. Jat communities keep big herds in other areas where there is more fodder and some Rabari communities still migrate each year with their camels as carriers for all their household possessions. The designs used in this rug are traditional to our community and can be found painted on walls, stitched into household items and woven into camel straps. Due to the size of this rug we used black sheep wool instead of goat hair. We made this special carpet in honour of our ancestors and their traditions. Curator’s note Kharad are made on a simple nomadic loom constructed from found materials, strung with local fibres - traditionally twisted goat hair - through which community patterns are interwoven using combinations of camel and sheep wool and goat hair packed tightly with a wooden implement called a ‘hatho’ (palm of hand). Technically Kharad is a flat weave that employs tapestry-like techniques to create patterns worked from the back. In the not too distant past, these looms were prolific in rural Kachchh and artisans produced a steady supply for local use. Today the output rests mainly with one family.


Father and son join hands to honour ancestry 2010


Parampa jo sanman Honouring tradition In the style of camel straps

These wall hangings were inspired by traditional camel straps which we call ‘tang’. We had the idea and made designs that record community traditions. The original straps were made of goat hair and local wool; we wove these new pieces from black and white sheep wool and bound the ends in the same style as traditional ‘tang’. IMAGES

Top: Camel strap 2009 Bottom: ‘Tang’ used in camel trappings Rabari migration 2008


Tejsi Dhana Marwada & Samat Tejsi Marwada 2010 Tang - Camel Strap 1, 2, 3 34 x 185 cm Sheep wool

Parampa jo sanman - Honouring tradition In the style of camel straps


Left top to bottom: Kids Kuran 2010 Clipping all year around 2011 Close up clip 2011 Spun goat hair 2010 Tejsi & Samat with grain sack 2011 Above: Sumar Vagha Kuran 2010

Curator’s note The grain sack (bottom left) was woven entirely from hand spun goat hair about sixty years ago. Due to the lack of ready raw materials it would be impossible to create such an item today. To my knowledge Sumar Vagha is the only remaining spinner of goat hair in his community and possibly in the region. 29


Top: Jetaben 2009 Bottom: Devaben 2009

Marwada Style Artisans: Sajanaben, Devaben & Jetaben Dhana Marwada Beaded necklaces ‘maniye ji mada’ Bangles ‘bangadiyu’ Glass beads and cotton threads


Soke batth ran mein vasant ja rang Colours of spring in a drab land Bangles, beads and bharat (stitch)

It is often noted by visitors to Kachchh that the delicacy and colour of women’s dress is in direct contrast to the rugged, dun coloured landscape in which they live. Unexpected flashes of colour in a field, by the roadside or at a well tend to linger in the mind long after one has returned home. After a while and with some local help I began to discern the communities and to recognise Ahir, Rabari, Jat, Mutwa, Samma, Megwhal and Sodha women by their varying dress codes. The distinct style of each community is its mark of identity; each family has its own repertoire of designs and each woman has her own unique way of working. Combinations of colour and stitch and pattern give clues and I have seen women with keen eyes quickly identify just which artisan has made a particular garment. The colourful women of the Megwhal Marwada clan stitch, bead, quilt and applique while managing household duties and attending to family needs. Tejsi’s wife, Sajana, and his daughters, Devaben and Jetaben, create for everyday use, for dowry and for pleasure and were keen to contribute their own creativity and voices to the exhibition. Artisans in their own right, they have their first opportunity to display their contribution to the aesthetics of our world. Necklaces, ‘maniye ji mada’, are worn by Megwhal communities and add a further identity ‘tag’ to dress. The bangles ‘bangadiyu’ are a new item inspired by one I frequently wear - however they have incorporated community symbols and, as one woman joked, it is far easier to wear a scorpion on a bangle than to have one tattooed on the arm. IMAGES

Left: Pakko style Kuran 2009 Right: Sajana in Kharek style 2009


The Dhana Marwada Family at their home in Sanjotnagar 2011 Left to right: Jetaben, Devaben, Sajanaben, Tejsibhai, Hirabahi, Samatbhai Background view of the hill behind the village.

Published by Desert Traditions www.desert-traditions.com

This publication is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act no part may be reproduced by any other process without prior written permission of the publisher. The images of the works remain the copyright of the artisans and the curator by arrangement. All other images remain the copyright of the photographer, Carole Douglas. Author and designer: Carole Douglas Kharad exhibits photography: Urs Buhlman Photography Printing: Major Graphics Printers Back cover image: Courtesy Urs Buhlman First edition: May 2011 ISBN 978-0-646-55490-7 Film-free process, printed with soya-based inks on stock manufactured from 50% post consumer waste and 50% from sustainable forest plantations.

Image: Looking towards Kalo Dungar - the Black Hills of Kachchh