A stunning range of the exquisite tie-and-dye craft will be on show between September 1 and 16 at the World Ikat exhibition in Delhi.
Ikat is a craft that tests the skills of two sets of craftsmen — tie-dye experts and weavers — to create some stunning masterpieces. They drawfrom the cultural nuances of different regions. It is a celebration of this tradition across the world at the World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region exhibition in New Delhi. Aptly titled ‘World Ikat Textiles… Ties that Bind,’ it opens today at Bikaner House.
Edric Ong, who wears several hats as advisor World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region, co-curator of the exhibition, designer and artist, says, “The technique of ikat is practised in at least 28 to 30 countries across all the continents. It is therefore global and stretches across the five regions of the World Crafts Council.”
To put it in perspective, it is done in Asia-Pacific (China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan ), Latin America (Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina ), the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Yemen), West Africa and Europe (Italy and Spain). In each country, there are regional differences, historical and cultural significance.
Manjari Nirula, vice-president World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region and co-curator of the exhibition says, “It is amazing how the entire world comes together with this one fabric. The process of tying and dyeing and weaving is the same everywhere. What changes is the yarn (cotton, silk, wool, banana fibre, grass) together with the colour combination and the formation of motifs that gives ikat from each country a distinctive touch .”
That is the beauty of the craft. Despite similar technique, the Patola of Gujarat is different from Telia Rumal of Telengana, Iban of Malaysia, Ulos of Sumatra, Kasuri of Japan and so on. Ikat weaving, especially double ikat (where both the warp and weft threads are tie/dyed), is amongst the most complicated. The process of weaving can be described as one wherein both the warp and weft are tie-and-dyed in colours as required in the final product. The tie-die is done so cleverly that once the weaving starts, the colours on the warp and weft fit in beautifully to create exquisite patterns. In single ikkat, only the warp or weft is tie-dyed.
The journey to build the exhibition lasted a year and the culmination of it was the exhibition in London last year. “In researching for the exhibition, I discovered African ikat textiles (Ivory Coast); and also ikat ponchos in Argentina; double ikkats in Guatemala and the beautiful ‘rebozos’ in Mexico. I also discovered variants of the ikat in the Victorian era which were woven in France known as chine a la branche and famously used as silk ribbons. We have some beautiful samples at the exhibition. Then there is the Meissen ikat kimonos of the Edo period. These are actually stencilled patterns on the warp threads before they were woven on the loom.”
This exhibition is for a passionate textile enthusiast. There are over 120 exhibits with 40 from India. The rest are examples of ikat across the world. What is significant about this exhibition, as Nirula points out, “Is its growth and evolution. There is something new at each one of them. In London, it had a European flavour with the inclusion of a French weaver, Claude Demas. The Indian one has some unique pieces. We found beautiful ikat in Guatemala and Peru at Santa Fe, which is part of this exhibition. The Indian ikat, of course, will be under the spotlight. The next exhibition at Kuching Sarawak, Malaysia will have a distinctive local flavour .” Thus, unlike a travelling exhibition with a fixed set of acquired pieces, it is presented more as a living tradition and heritage.
The title piece of this exhibition is the Shrikar Bhat Patola — of two large elephants in procession with a Jain monk. This piece was woven by a Salvi family in 2009. Brothers, Rohit and Rahul Salvi, will be present in Delhi. Another equally stunning piece is the Telia Rumal by Gajam Govardhan. It is amazing how so many beautiful motifs can be fitted into one piece. And then there are Jayadeva’s Gita Govind saris woven by the legendary Surendra Patra and Kalidas’s ‘Ritu Samhar’ by Pitabas Meher. Yes, the verses come alive in ikat on the weaves.
In the international section there are Victorian era ribbons. There is Miyako Kawahito, renowned designer and revivalist, from Japan. Miyako is known for indigo-dyed creations that are wearable art. In Japan, the technique of ikat is known as Kasuri and pursued in several regions. This includes both the single and double ikat. The Indonesian double and single ikat will be well-represented too.
In China, Li people of Hainan Island are experts in this technique, which is woven on back strap looms. Here again, indigo dyeing stands out. Alfonso Guinoo, the Czar of the Philippines fashion, has done remarkable work with the natural fibres of tribal groups. His creations seamlessly merge tradition with contemporary. This includes the famous tinalak weaving done using abaca fibres which are dyed with vegetable colours. This is a rare form of weaving practised in Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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