Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Indian textile traditions are exemplars of Deep Local, firmly rooted in geography and culture. Even family names denote specific occupations; Ansari are weavers; Chippa, block-print dyers; Khatri, bandhani dyers. In the 1980s, two exhibitions introduced me to Indian textiles. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s show, “India Festival of Science included artisans demonstrating their specialties. Ansar Ahmed Ansari, a Varanasi silk brocade weaver, wove sari fabric on a Jacquard loom. After shadowing him for several days, he offered his business card and invited me to visit. In New York at the Met, the India Art and Culture exhibition had a spectacular Mughal tent richly embroidered metallic gold on crimson velvet. It was sublime, soft architecture beckoning repose. The ultimate lure was learning that Rahul Jain, the renowned textile historian and designer, had fabricated a drawloom to weave velvet. Rahul worked with one Ansari family for more than two years to actualize his dream of reproducing Mughal velvets. In January 2016, I met him and his fabulous loom. It resided in the weaver’s home in the small village Colapur, 15 kilometers east of Varanasi. The loom was a traditional Indian drawloom, complete jala system for weaving Banarasi brocades. An elaborate surrounding apparatus held the separately tensioned velvet piles. The weaving process took the family: the masterweaver; his brother controlling the pattern leashes; his wife widening the sheds; his father troubleshooting the piles. The coincidences illuminated Pan Global. When I showed Sibras Chandra Supakar, Rahul’s colleague, the business card I had kept, he told me he knew the weaver and his father had selected him. When talking with Abbas Khan, Rahul’s protégé, I discovered that his mother worked on the Met exhibition and knew the permanent home for the tent. Museums and their staff provide invaluable links across time and space.