Past-Present: Craft Communities in Contemporary India

Mustafa, Shabbir Hussain is an Assistant Curator with the National University of Singapore Museum. As a student of the arts, his research interests modern South and Southeast Asian history. His approach to understanding the arts has centered heavily on engaging different archives of thinking and writing, all in an attempt at opening up the archives to multivariate struggles of perception and reading. The South and Southeast Asian exhibitions that he recently curated include: Archives and Desires: Selections from the Mohammad Din Mohammad Collection (2008); I Polunin: Memories of Singapore through Film and Photographs (2009); Past-Present: Craft Communities in Contemporary India (2009) and Persistent Visions | Erika Tan (2009). His recent publications include "Re-membering the Intimate Past" in Shifts: Wong Hoy Cheong, 2002-2007 (2008); "Something" in Being: Ahmad Zakii Anwar (2009) and "The Science of the Native in Colonial Malaya" in Camping and Tramping through the Colonial Archive: The Museum in 19th Century Malaya (2010).

November 2010, Craft Revival Trust
“The beautiful groups of textiles and handicrafts are a welcome reminder that the first meaning of the word art is ‘skill’. It is skill in making things, and in making them beautifully that is the foundation of all art. For without the craftsman's skill, the profound spiritual ideals of Indian civilization could never have been expressed in art. This is a lesson India has taught the world and through this magnificent gift can bring home to the people of Malaya.”
– Michael Sullivan1

As the words of then curator of the University of Malaya Museum Michael Sullivan insist, Indian textiles and imaginations of India have always had a nebulous but intimate relationship. Textiles – along with religious iconographies and architecture – have not only performed the role of plenipotentiaries of ‘Indian culture’ within the socio-geographical boundaries of what is today recognized as India but also beyond into what Sullivan refers to as ‘Malaya’. In many ways the study of textiles has been a preoccupation of the Art History discipline. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s History of Indian and Indonesian Art, first published in 1927, not only identifies periods and locations in which varying importation and adaptations of Indian art may be acknowledged within 'Indonesia’ (a category which referred to Southeast Asia in general but also emphasizes the ‘vigor and originality’ of local cultures in recontextualizing and making eclectic cultural icons. 2 Sullivan's notion of 'Malaya’s debt’ then needs to be approached with caution and relooked as the launch point for a number of debates on not just Indian textiles, but also about those who produce and consumes them.

The NUS Museum acquired its first textiles in 1959 as part of a gift of 55 artworks from the Government of India. The donation contained five fabrics of which the most significant is an 18th Century Kashmiri shawl or kaniker. Its twill tapestry of the traditional design of guldasta or vases of flowers along the borders and the one woven pashmina dyed in red reveals the technical virtuosity in patterning and dyeing that has made Indian textiles so highly sought after since the 2nd Century. Unfortunately, the Museum's collection was divided in 1965 after the separation of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation, with only three of the five textiles remaining in Singapore.3 Apart from this, the Museum under the guidance of William Wiliets continued to acquire textiles over the next decade or so. The collection now consists of 366 items which are mainly from India and Southeast Asia and range in date from the 18th to the mid 20th Centuries. The Indonesian cloths are from Java, Sumatra and Bali and make up the bulk of the collection. There are also some fabrics from Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia. The Museum records are sketchy at best, and much of the information for this exhibition has been gathered from the few existing written documents such as catalogues written by Willets and oral interviews conducted with Michael Sullivan.

Most pertinently, the NUS Museum’s textiles remain a relatively understudied area of the collection. In 2002, at the inaugural exhibition of the NUS Museum titled Past, Present, Beyond: Re-nascence of an Art Collection which was curated by T.K. Sabapathy, textile historian Constance Sheares contributed a catalogue essay which sought to understand the major patterning techniques evident in the NUS Museum’s textile collection4. Sheares classified the collection into three main types: loom weaving, embroidery and resist-dyeing which included tying and dyeing as well as printing and painting processes. These techniques were then further classified country wise namely India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia where applicable. In the essay, Sheares draws attention to the intensive exchange of motifs and techniques that took place between regions. Since 2002, no substantive research has been conducted on the NUS Museum textile collection. Suffice to say, most of the textiles on display for the current exhibition have not been displayed since the William Willets exhibition in 1964. However, before introducing the 1964 episode, let me digress by briefly recounting the modem history of textile production in postcolonial India, a period which remains crucial in contextualizing this exhibition.

India’s textile tradition is the largest single source of employment after agriculture, a craft skill providing clothing and furnishings to people all over the world. So while textile may occasionally become art in the era of postcolonial exploration, the larger story of this medium continues to be one where objects of utility are produced by anonymous creators. The textile history of independent India is dominated by the influence of two Gandhis: the Mahatma and Indira. At a moment when industrialization had been considered imperative for Indian survival, the Mahatma’s equation of patriotism and independence with wearing homespun khadi preserved the handloom weaving traditions. Emerging in the 70s, Indira Gandhi, temperamentally quite opposite to the Mahatma, nevertheless performed the same role by consistently wearing the best handspun textiles. While the Sirimavo Bandarnaikes wore chiffon and nylon and the young Benazir Bhuttos adorned crimplene pantsuits with padded shoulders, Indira unnervingly appeared in Kalamakari and handloom silk shawls and cotton. Other female trendsetters, fellow politicians, film stars, socialists, fundamentalists, economists, entrepreneurs and rural activists followed suit.

In their wake came resurgence and revival of classic weaving which extended beyond the shores of independent India and provoked interest in as far as Singapore. Regional skills and products, restricted to specific villages or communities began to appear in unexpected urban settings as part of an pan-Indian, be-Indian, buy-Indian campaign promoted by government agencies set up in the 50s and 60s to promote indigenous textile producers. It was Gandhian philosophy implemented by the most modern 20th Century marketing and management strategies. In many ways, Nehruvian modernity coupled with Gandhian philosophy matched the national mood of progress and reassertion in the Indian textile sector for the first three decades after independence. This national mood exploded at the New York, Montreal and Osaka World Fairs, at the chic and newly designed hotels, embassies and Indian Cultural Centers across most cosmopolitan centers. Indian embroideries were a repackaged national flag, the soft power of Nehruvian third-worldism.

The Khadi and Village Industries Corporation had 15,000 outlets – the world’s largest retail chain. Sadly, bureaucracy brought along its own red tape and stagnation bloomed. Government controls and monopolies on the sale and price of textile products made it more profitable to sell raw cotton than convert it into a marketable product. However, in the 70s and 80s there was resurgent interest and cam a revival of the textile tradition. Interior designers such as Ritu Kumar became aware of the attraction of Indian textile techniques. Shops like Anokhi and Fab-India, selling handloom textiles and textile-based garments, became globally recognized retail chains. The series of International Festival of India in the USA and Europe used the warp and weft on Indian textiles and their accompanying skills of ornamentation such as embroidery and bandhani to highlight India’s continued relevance to specific global cultural strengths. Contemporarily, the scenario is slightly different. The liberalization of the Indian economy has upped the stakes in the Indian marketplace with a whole range of brands, products and consumption regimes taking hold. Markets for Indian textiles have undoubtedly expanded with benefits trickling down through the socioeconomic pyramid. However, with raw material prices intensely connected with global aggregates, it seems-the rural weavers can no longer afford to wear their own products.

In 1985, when Vijaya Ramaswamy published her study Textiles and Weavers in Medieval South India, it was considered pioneering. Based on fieldwork conducted over a decade in the Sengunthar, Saliya and Devanga community, the study attempted to integrate multiple perspectives and diverse methodologies to provide an intense perspective on the socio-economic world of weaving communities. Drawing heavily on oral and ‘folk’ narratives as imperative sources in the study of textile production and trade in Peninsular India, Ramaswamy eloquently argued against the sole reliance upon problematic and perhaps even ‘uninformed’ colonial records as historical sources. Much of Ramaswamy’s study relied upon the large gap in traditional modes of textile history writing which ‘touch only peripherally, if at all on the lives of the weavers. 5

Past-Present: Craft Communities in Contemporary India is an experimental project that shares Ramaswamy's concern and attempts at partially bridging the epistemological silences represent by traditionalist discourses by engaging with the weavers’ narratives and their stupefying socioeconomic contexts. The exhibition seeks to generate numerous points of departure into the study of the artistic processes involved in the production of textiles, but also present a study of the livelihoods that are created and sustained as a result. As such in attempting to make sense of contemporary textile making in India, this exhibition adapts a mode of thinking (which one scholar has provocatively claimed as the ‘remembering of the past in the present’) by juxtaposing the field content of two study trips undertaken to India from Singapore in 1964 and 2008 respectively. 6

The first ‘remembering' is of the reputed art historian and then Director of the Museum William Willets whose Indian tour of textile making began from the Southern Indian city of Madras and ended in what is today the state of Rajasthan after a brief sojourn in Orissa. Upon his return Willets curated an exhibition titled ‘Indian Textiles’. Apart from the few textiles which were secured by donations and loans, most were collected by Willets in the course of his tour. The journalistic details of the trip remain sketchy due to the lack of verifiable sources except for the catalogue which was authored by Willets and published in conjunction with the exhibition – a document which I will return to later.

The second event is of a 2008 study trip undertaken by NUS University Scholars Programme students titled ‘Urban North India: Craft Communities, Livelihoods and Habitats’ which sought to study crafts and craft communities in Northern India to understand social issues, livelihoods, NGO activities and the difficulties in preserving ‘heritage’. The trip examined the late-modem socio-cultural structures of craft communities, and as Dr Medha Kudaisya intended, the continuing relevance of caste in terms of occupation in contemporary India and the problems crafts communities face such as the lack of capital, dependency on moneylenders and lack of information and access to urban markets The field trip involved working with both governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). At one level the students sought to understand the critical role organizations such as the Craft Revival Trust, Central Cottage Industries of India, Delhi Haat and the Anokhi Museum of Hand-printing perform, but also extended this understanding further by directly interacting with the craft communities. Much of the contemporary materials on display were collected as part of the field trip which covered crafts persons and organizations operating in urban Rajasthan and Delhi. Students wrote and reflected on the craft spaces they visited and studied seeking to dynamically contextualize them in the present.

Curatorially, the project has been challenging, juxtapositions of the contested pasts against contemporary modes of production and reception is neither neutral nor unambiguous. In the midst of forging the reparative continuity between cultural identity and the historical past, this project has had to contend with two major caveats. The museum space itself which accentuates some of the inherent difficulties in reconciling the ever shifting terrain between Museums and their source communities but more discerningly, the challenge of pushing beyond the discipline of ‘art history' and into a multidisciplinary method in appreciating art and material cultures. Therefore, the postulation of the two above ‘events' is crucial for the illustration of the unsustainable discrepancy between the finitude of the thinking rational body of literature and the infinite variety of the world – which always remains in excess of what the modern episteme can or does represent. Therefore, the title of the exhibition – 'Past-Present’ – suggests that to attempt telling or revealing the histories of others is to be pressed against the margins of one’s own.

A significant theoretical hurdle has been the dilemmas generated by the movement of objects invested with the plenipotentiaries of 'craft' into the museum context. The textiles from Willets' 1964 expedition juxtaposed to the 2008 student collection of crafts are not neutral articulations, but represent varied modes of artistic construction and representation on the Indian subcontinent, from the preponderant 19th Century debates in British India about what exactly should be promoted as ‘art’ in a colonized setting to the association of 'craft’ labels to specific artisanal products vis-a-vis the inheritances of the many 'European Schools of Art'. Although the focus of this paper is not to present a sustained critique of the 'art’ versus 'craft’ labels in the Indian context, it remains an acknowledged caveat (or what Gayathri Spivak pronounces as ‘strategic essentialism') in the curatorial method. In other words, the implications of such an acknowledgement are multiple – theoretically – but also crucial in highlighting to the audience the artificiality and constantly negotiated “ nature of the exhibition space which is mediated by the artisanal productions, the physical monumentality of the museum, the student collections and the audience .

In his 1964 catalogue, Willets, intensely and with fine detail, lays down the production methods adopted by the artisans; all thematically organized according to motives and with specific attention paid to regional variations and complexities The author even draws linkages to textile motifs and methods being adopted in the textile making centers of Indonesia and different parts of Southeast Asia Although it is pertinent to note that Willets never uses the category ‘Southeast’ Asia, perhaps because the region of Southeast Asia itself was a postcolonial construct, citing the textile historian Pupul Jayakar, the author notes, ‘It is likely that skilled dyers and weavers from Masulipatnam coast carried the famous patola process to Java and Sumatra where it came to be known as ikat7. This contention may need to be approached with caution, but can also be strategically understood as indicative of the intense exchanges of bodies and knowledge between the regions of South and Southeast Asia. This is a crucial link that is relatively understudied in general, but has been an intensely debated realm in the discipline of textile and art history8.

Ikat or the technique of resisting yarn for fabrics is one such technique which represents a large group of Indian textiles which are patterned by means of resist techniques. These dyeing methods serve to decorate textiles in colour by partially reserving or resisting the fabric before dyeing and removing these resists afterwards. What distinguishes these patterning methods from others is that the ornamented motifs are produced neither by painting or embroidery, but are left undyed on coloured ground. The process itself can be repeated to produce multiple variations In this regard, the Lunghi or men’s hip wrap (S1964-0004-004-0) dated circa early 1960s is from Sambalpur, Orissa which has historically been a center for the ikat technique of weaving. Patronized by different populations, both local and overseas, the industry in Sambalpur has thrived mainly due to the community of weavers such as the Mehers. In the contemporary landscape, however, the weaving communities are poised on the crossroads of change very much like many other textile production centers in India, stretching from the states of Rajastan to Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, division of labour and specialization in tie and dye techniques have become increasingly attractive, with different villages in the vicinity specializing in different stages of the production process. In terms of design and motifs, what had previously been a constantly evolving but relatively confined realm to one weaving group or another has now become a much more fluid process of borrowing and redesigning enabled further by the various technologies of late modernity.

Very much in line with the above discussion on the contemporary state of weavers in Orissa is the story of the Telia Rumal or the tie-and-dye double ikat square kerchiefs which have been traditionally woven in Pochampali, Andhra Pradesh for local users and export especially to the Middle East, Burma, Japan, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia9. The textile historian John Guy in his book ‘Woven Cargoes’ documents a fragment of an 18" Century Indian sarasa from the collection at the daimyo of Hikone province, Japan. As Guy contends, ‘this is one of a number of fragments recorded only in Japan that incorporate elements of a regionally specific style of ikat dyeing associated with the Telia Rumal cloths of Andhra Pradesh10. In many ways, the presence of these samples suggests that actual Telia Rumals may have once formed a significant, yet largely unrecorded, part of the trade networks of the Coromandel Coast11. Forming part of the trip undertaken by Willets in 1964 were two Telia Rumals (S1964-0004-002-0 and S1964-0010-002-0) which are indicative of the elaborate processes involved in determining the geometric designs. In terms of motifs, the squares, stars, crosses and dots appear commonly across both Rumals. At times the diaper is produced by a white serrated line which forms irregular diamonds, in which airplane and other motifs are included. Aestheticizing them further, the edges of the tie-dyed designs are never harsh but rather the colours flow one into another producing an effect of great softness.

The most discerning aspect of William Willets 1964 essay (at least in the context of the current exhibition) is contained in its own margins when the author reflects upon the challenges facing the hand weavers and their communities. In fact, the 'plight’ of the weaving communities has been a preoccupation at much discourse on the textile history and handlooms of India especially in the post-Partition era. In relation to the single ikat running cloths (S1964-0004-005-0; S1964-0003-002-0; S1964-0002-003-0) from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, Willets notes, ‘the amount of time and industry involved in weaving these fabrics, quite apart from the technical expertise, is of course enormous, and since the industry cannot compete economically with the mill made fabrics now filtering into the villages (often crudely imitating the local weaves), it is faced with the prospect of total extinction. Appreciation of its intrinsic qualities on the part of foreign buyers, and a steady demand and sale on foreign markets, alone might rescue it12.

Contemporarily, Dana McCown in her study titled 'An Endangered Species: Telia Rumals, Double Ikat textiles of South India’ focused on a particular family of weavers from Puttapaka, Andra Pradesh who specialize in the production of telia Rumals using the traditional dye methods which are now being steadily replaced by chemical dyes. Although McCown’s study attempts at raising caution about the impending ‘loss’ of an authentic technique, it also needs to be noted that the weaving communities have also made conscious decisions in shifting to 'moderated-mechanization’ in lieu of emerging export demand13. Pochampalli and its surrounding villages continued to weave ikat but have diversified to other styles and products, changing to chemical dyes, developing new techniques and markets as India integrates further into the global cultural economy. What then constitutes ‘authentic’ ikat is a moot point and should be approached with relative caution. The hope is to move beyond assumptions of and attempts at preserving the ‘authentic’ and into a critical mode which accounts for the constantly negotiated agencies and lived realities of the weaving communities, different stakeholders and the ever-shifting socio-historicaI contexts which acknowledge newer techniques of production.

In this spirit, we turn to the story of Kalamkari or the method of painting natural dyes onto cotton or silk fabric with a bamboo pen or kalam. The name kalamkari translates as pen (kalam) work (kari) in Hindi/ Urdu, and was most likely derived from trade relationships between Persian and Indian merchants as early as the 10th Century14. Although there have been multiple centers of Kalamkari production on the subcontinent, two centers have been historically noted as significant, namely Sri Kalahasti and Masulipatnam. Although craftsmen in both centers use very similar techniques, the distinctive motifs set them apart. The finest depictions on Sri Kalahasti Kalamkari textiles are from the epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Other popular themes were Sivalila, the divine play of Siva, the Bhagavatam or the story of Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita, the depiction of Lord Krishna’s counsel to Arjuna. The mid 20th Century Kalamakari textile on display (S1964-0001-002-0) is from Sri Kalahasti and depicts a popular theme among weaving circles, namely the coronation of Lord Rama, who alongside Sita distributes gifts to all those who assisted him in his battle with Ravana. Turning towards Hanuman, who sits at his feet in submission, it is noted, ‘There is nothing I can give you that would match the service you have rendered to me. All I can do is to give you my own self.’ The second Kalamkari (S1964-0001-001-0) is a mordanted but unbleached and undyed textile which was, according to Willets, produced at ‘the Kalamkari Training and Production Center at Kalahasti in the Chittor District of Andhra Pradesh’15. It is divided into compartments separated by decorated pillars. The feature is the depiction of women in this painting who are wearing the traditional saris with decorated blouses, adorning heavy bracelets and chains. The men are also figured in the traditional dhoti with angavastra or an upper throw garment of silk.

Reverting to Willets’ observations about Kalamakari, ‘the five trainees working under one master-painter at the [Kalamkari Training and Production] centre are virtually all that remain of the great chintz tradition of Golconda and Coromandel Coast…. To complete a Kalahasti Kalamkari the size of a single bedspread requires part of the time of five men and an instructor over a period of one month. Such a cloth cannot be sold under existing conditions at more than about 100/- (say M$50). If the industry is to survive, a new demand for its products must come from outside India’16. In many ways, this observation made by Willets in 1964 emerged from the postcolonial politics of intervention on the part of the Indian government which had, in 1957, through the intervention of art activist Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya established the government-run Kalamkari Training and Development Center at Sri Kalahasti that focused on teaching an emerging generation of artists the techniques and stylistic vocabulary of painted and printed mordant resist-dyed cloths Contemporarily, the ebb and flow of kalamkari popularity continues to plague the artistic community at Sri Kalahasti. However with an upsurge in interest in contemporary art forms from India, NGOs, Cooperatives and entrepreneurs seeking to develop domestic and export markets for Indian textiles have rejuvenated and led to a sustained interest in the livelihoods of the artists.

Whereas the painted Kalamkari textiles may be regarded as belonging to the ‘mosaic and inlay tradition’, the village prints of ajarakh (S1964-0010-001-0, S1964-0053-003-0, S1964-0053-004-0, S1964-0053-005-0; S1964-0053-002-0; S1964-0004-005-0; S1964-0003-002-0) are of the ‘earth’ tradition. Mainly from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west and Andhra Pradesh especially from the township of Masulipatnam, they have repeat patterns, hand-painted by means of wood block dipped in resist pastes, made of substances such as clay, lime, gum, resin and palm sugar in various combinations depending on the constantly evolving generational techniques of the different families and weaving communities involved in the production process.

With reference to tie-dyeing, on display are also 'odhnis’ (shawls) from the Saurashtra region probably made for the wedding of a Gujarati aristocratic woman. Two works represent the ‘laharia’ tradition (S1964-0005-001-0; S1964-0007-001-0) while two represent the ‘odhani’ pattern (S1964-0007-002-0, S1964-0007-003-0). Technically, a bandhani design is stenciled on a piece of cloth and given for tying to a specialist, who will then tie waxed thread around each of the dots in the pattern using a prong attached to a finger to raise the cloth. The thread used for tying is never cut or broken but simply extended to next area needing attention As a result, when the cloth is dyed, often in several different colours, the thread used to resist the penetration of the dyes are pulled out as continous threads. Today, the finest bandhani work comes from Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Pali, Udaipur, Nathdwara and Sikar, with region specific variations.

With regards to the tie-dye textiles, Willets notes, ‘If the ikat or yarn tie-dye industry of India is today mainly confined to Orissa and Andhra, the bandhana flourishes especially (though not exclusively) in western India – in Gujarat, and above all in Rajasthan. The colours scintillate, blazing into life as a woman crosses a patch of sunshine in a twilt street, and clearly symbolizes a natural psychological rebellion against the drabness and aridity of the desert landscape; and also, may be, a protest against the poverty and hardship of life itself 17. Once again, Willets's observations are interesting, suggesting on the one hand the ‘plight’ of the weavers and their sociohistorical circumstances, but on the other a productive landscape of textile production which has so vividly captured the external imagination from within and outside of the monumentality that is ‘India’. This is a theoretical challenge that this exhibition has had to contend with at numerous points. The doubleness of the contemporary viz-a-vis the legacy of modernity, all of it constantly pushed against the perceived 'traditional’, has created a complex positioning for the different artifacts presented within the gallery space. In many ways, the heritage of the NUS Museum which includes Willets' 1964 trip, presented alongside the contemporary collection of the students who undertook their own trip to craft production centers in 2008, exposes the in-between dialogical spaces and rekindles important debates that pervade the lives of textile producers and their audiences or consumers.

They are mainly village cloths, and are for the most part obtainable in small commercial quantities; but the nature of the weaving and dyeing techniques applied in their manufacture precludes a rigid standardization of design and finish, and renders each individual fabric – whether running-cloth, square, sari length, choli piece, turban-cloth, stole, scarf, etc. – a unique and in a strict sense unrepeatable product. It is hoped you will be able to get some idea of the enormous wealth of traditional textile beauty that still survives in India, the original home of some of the most celebrated cotton-patterning processes of South Asia18.

The relevance of William Willets’ 1964 expedition still remains an important extension to the study of subcontinental craft communities and the challenges they face on an everyday basis. As this preamble has sought to highlight, the complexity of the context does not allow for singular, linear interpretations and the questions are bursting at the seams. Although information and scholarship are not as scarce as before, it seems imperative to use innovative explorations such as those from the students of the University Scholars Programme, NUS – however tentative – as points of departure into the interrogation of discursive social systems. This exhibition is then its inheritance, a humble attempt at projecting those complexities. Who knows where it may lead, and what might emerge.

  1. Quoted from Michael Sullivan, The Art of India. Commemorative catalogue of an exhibition of Indian art and handicrafts presented to the University of Malaya by the Government of India on March 31st 1959, Singapore: University of Malaya Art Museum. 1959, p.3.

  2. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, History of Indian and Indonesian Art, 1877-1947, New York: E. Weyhe, 1927, p. 4.

  3. For details on the division of the University of Singapore Art Museum collection see T.K. Sabapathy ‘Past-Present: A History of the University Art Museum' in T.K. Sabapathy (ed.) Past, Present, Beyond: Re-nascence of an Art Collection, Singapore: NUS Museum, 2002, pp. 10-21 and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Fragments, Histories, Contexts: The NUS Museum South Asian Collection, Singapore: NUS Museum, 2007.

  4. Constance Sheares. ‘Threads of Tradition: Dyed and Woven’ in T.K. Sabapathy (ed.) Past, Present, Beyond: Re-nascence of an Art Collection, Singapore NUS Museum, 2002, pp. 36-47.

  5. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. xi

  6. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London Routledge, 1994, p. 63.

  7. As cited in William Willets, Indian Textiles. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Indian Traditional Village Textiles in the University of Singapore Art Museum, Singapore: University of Singapore Art Museum, 1964, p. 11

  8. Mary Kuhlenberg, 'Who Influenced Whom? The Indian Textile Trade to Sumatra and Java’ in Rosemary Crill (ed.) Textiles from India: The Global Trade. Papers Presented at a conference on the Indian textile trade, Kolkata, 12-14 October 2003, New York: Seagull, 2006, pp. 135-151.

  9. See Alfred Buhler 'Indian Resist-Dyed Fabrics’ in Jasleen Dhamija and Jyotindra Jain (eds.) Handwoven Fabrics of India, Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 1989, pp. 84-95 and John Gillow, Traditional Indian Textiles, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991, pp.36-54.

  10. John Guy, Woven Cargoes: Indian Textiles in the East, London: Thames and Hudson, 1998, p. 172

  11. For an interesting study see Alfred Buhler and Eberhard Fischer, The Patola of Gujarat: Double Ikat in India, Basel: Krebs Verlag, 1979.

  12. Willets, op. cit. p. 12.

  13. My use of the term ‘moderated-mechanization' suggests that many of the difficulties facing the weaving communities is due to of the lack of support structures and adequate monitoring and auditing of the different agencies and cooperatives. As such moderated-mechanization is crucial in ensuring adequate supplies of yarn of the requisite quality; providing sufficient facilities for quality dyeing and training in improving dyeing practices; creation of proper channels and market networks and establishment of relatively streamlined procedures for securing working capital. For a longer discussion see Ramaswamy, op. cit. p. 181

  14. For the most recent debates see Rosemary Grill (ed.) Textiles from India: The Global Trade. Papers Presented at a conference on the Indian textile trade, Kolkata, 12-14 October 2003, New York: Seagull, 2006.

  15. To extend the story of Kalamkari, it is also intensely interwoven with the movement of knowledge and bodies across the Indian Ocean and beyond from as early as the 7th Century CE, specifically to what is geographically understood today as Indonesia. Begining around the time, Indian textile designs and aesthetics came to Indonesia via trade and religious networks from India. Over the following millenium, they were adapted to local religious beliefs, aesthetics and the area’s weaving and dyeing techniques.

  16. Willets, op. cit. p. 7-8.

  17. Italics mine. Willets, op. cit. p. 12.

  18. Willets, op. cit. p. 3.

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