A flower from every meadow

A flower from every meadow
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  WEAVING IDENTITIES - THE PAST OF OUR PRESENT By Durriya Kazi  A Flower From Every Meadow curated by Dr. Nasreen Askari, brings together a mesmerizing collection of woven and embroidered clothing and fabrics from all over Pakistan. ne of the most s!iritually u!lifting e"hibitions, not least because of the #why now$ factor, it is a timely reminder of the meadow we now occu!y that we have covered with !lastic bags and rags of mass !roduced clothing. %t asks the &uestion '%s this our !ast or does it have a !lace in our future() DrAskari leads us to conclude the latter by inviting a select grou! of contem!orary fashion designers to !ay homage to the te"tiles with their owndesigns. *thical +ashions srcinally the brainchild of the Bibi ussell, has been ado!ted by many of Pakistan$s fashion designers in varying degrees.  -his ensures a continuity of traditional skills and creates a s!ace for a Pakistani identity in the fashion industry. owever as a cautionary thought, the conclusion of Kala aksha in /u0rat %ndia, was that #commercialization insidiously eroded the artisans1 sense of aesthetics and self worth$. 2hile +ashion created commercial o!!ortunities for artisans, it also ironically threatened cultural heritage. %n 3445, Kala aksha res!onded by founding Kala aksha 6idhyalaya, the 7rst design school for artisans, as a sustainable solution for the survival of craft traditions. owever, !erha!s that is 0ust calling a rose by another name. An intervention is always an intervention.  A Flower From Every Meadow very em!hatically shows dress and te"tiles as being so much more than skill and creativity. 8lothing is an identi7er of region, tribe or ethnic grou!, family, social hierarchy and of course individual !ersonality. -he colours, the embroidery motifs, the yards of cloth used, as well as how and when the dress is worn can be read as a cultural and !sychological te"t. -he embroidery on a trousseau created over many years by a young woman demonstrates her creativity, intelligence and !ersonality. %t$s what she brings to her marital relationshi!. *ach !iece is uni&ue, with subtle innovations, like handwriting. %t also feeds back into the evolution of a community and a region. New materials lead to new inter!retations such as shells re!laced by white buttons as can be seen in the horse$s head dress on dis!lay.Nature is never very far from these te"tiles. -he dyes used 9 madder, indigofera, turmeric, !omegranate skins: the motifs 9 !eacocks, fruit, nuts and ;owers of the region. <ome romantic like the neem leaf, mango,  lightning, rams horns, and some &uirky and humourous like billi buto  =cats face>, kutay payr   =dogs !aw> and even thorns that warn the outsider to be careful. ne of the main victims of modernity has been nature. ?anguage was alwaysclosely linked with nature. 8olours used to be called baigani, jamni, tarboozi  instead of !ur!le and shocking !ink. *mbroidery with gold and silver thread was called ganga jamna . <ongs were about the nehar wala pul, chaudvi ka chand , standing below a neem  tree. n one of my visits to the 6ice 8hancellor$s o@ce on a !articularly hot day, % greeted the guard and said by way of conversation # %ts really hot today$. %nstead of the usual com!laints about load shedding he said, yes, fasal achi pakay gi  =the cro!s will ri!en well>. %n the rooms of ohatta Palace nature is given its due !lace. As soon as you enter the e"hibition, three worksho!s set the conte"t <ha7& <oomro$s a0rak !rinting, ab Dino$s bandhani tie dying, and <hahid allah$s khes loom, eachwith labelled natural dyes, and materials gathered from the region. -his activity creates an awareness of the com!le"ity of !roducing everyday clothing that !overty and lack of resources notwithstanding, are deemed im!ortant enough to warrant the love and eCort taken to !roduce these te"tiles. An idea of the s!iritual nature of the work can be gathered from this &uote by a young Kachi woman '%t took many hours of tortured stitching before % began to a!!reciate the relationshi! between needle size, cloth te"ture, and stitch 7neness. %t wasn1t until much later that % realized my eCorts to stitch 7nely and evenly were being hindered by my reliance on sight. % discovered, &uite by accident, late one afternoon as the sun was setting and the light was growing dim, that my stitching im!roved as I was forced to trust my sense of touch and the rhythms ). 2alking into the e"hibition rooms at ohatta Palace, % was conscious of the connectivity of not only the e"hibits but also the architecture, es!ecially the tiled ;oors whose warm earthy colours and designs were in some silent conversation with the te"tiles dis!layed on the walls. % easily imagined small lantern lit rooms with women huddled after a 5 hour day threading a needleand stitching motifs of &uiet serenity or lanes resounding with the rhythmic clatter of looms, the dull thud of blocks weaving and !rinting.  -he te"tiles on dis!lay are from !rivate collections and while re!resenting a wide region from 8hitral and <wat to the far reaches of <indh and Baluchistan, it only touches the enormous scale and variety of te"tiles in Pakistan. E4F of the embroidery stiches of <outh Asia are said to be in the region that is now Pakistan. Pakistan is the only country in the world  !roducing all four commercially known silks G mulberry, tasser =tussore>, eri and muga. -he earliest e"am!le of %ndigofera comes from the %ndus 6alley 8ivilization =HH44 GH44 B8>  -he calmness of the !atiently layered 7ne single threads of gujjh  , the energyof the Baluchi gidaan  woven tents and, in between, the Ludi shawls of  -har!arker, felt  pattu  coats of 8hitral the farasi  of <indh, the khurzeen of Baluchistan, the lungi  or turbans cloths of Kalat and Bahawal!ur, the ghagros, the  doshalo and chupri  shawls, magical names that reveal so many worlds that remain invisible in our caco!honous urgent lives. -wo installations, a hujra  from Kohistan and a Baluchi gidaan  tent, give us a miniscule insight into the daily life of artisan communities, most !robably endangered in their own regions. arely seen Baluch te"tiles are !rovided by the artist Akram Dost, whose PhDis an invaluable document of the te"tiles of Baluchistan. Another s!ecial dis!lay is a Kohistani 535 !anel  umlo or dress and c hoprai shawl that ins!ired <heila Paine$s romance with te"tiles of Asia. *nigmatic in this rich ta!estry of colour and !attern is a white bur&a, 7nely embroidered in white silk thread a sentinel reminiscent of a marble scul!ture. A reminder of the dichotomy of hiding and revealing but also evoking a nostalgia for the sim!le bur&a re!laced now by hijabs  and chadors  of the middle and near east srcins in a !ost Iia era.  -he e"hibition subtly culminates in the work of contem!orary designers who were invited to res!ond to the traditional te"tiles izwan Beyg, Bunto Kazmi,aheen Khan, +aiza <amee, Nilofur <hahid, <onya Battla, <hamaeel Ansari, <ana <a7naz and Khadi whose intelligent and creative designs have each ke!t the te"tile crafts alive and relevant. izwan Beyg established worksho!s for women artisans nine years ago. Bunto Kazmi$s e"&uisite !ictorial embroideries evoke ughal 7nesse that created e"&uisite fabrics !oetically called baft hawa  =woven air>, abe rawan  =running water> and shabnam  =morning dew>. aheen Khan has as can be e"!ected, taken a ste! further by creating a new label inviting individual designers to commission work directly from the silk weavers of Banares in Karachi.  -e"tiles is Pakistan$s oldest trade 7nding its way from *gy!t to 8hina, until the British a0 banned all te"tile !roduction with its many ?imitation Acts to corner the market for its own te"tile mills. %ndustry was severely aCected andreduced to e"!orting raw materials, but as in so many other areas of customs and culture, the village was thankfully s!ared.  2illiam orris$ warning that 'the %ndian or Ja!anese craftsman may no longer !ly his craft leisurely, working a few hours a day, in !roducing a maze of strange beauty on a !iece a cloth a steam engine is set aGgoing at anchester', may after all, be !roved wrong. N. 8haudhri, in his book !ulture in the "anity #ag  says, a change of clothes isregarded as a desertion of the former self, a #transfer of cultural allegiance). 2hile men in general in Pakistan have ado!ted western dress, the women have ke!t traditional clothing alive, maintained their #cultural allegiance$. *mma -arlo in her book #8lothing atters$ reminds us that clothing es!eciallyin urban centres of <outh Asia, is now a matter of choice.  A Flower From Every Meadow invites viewers to consider their choices. -he message of this e"hibition is the !ast is still !resent, still relevant, still astrong ins!iration. As an artist, the im!ortance of this e"hibition for me lies inits invitation to re!ossess and author our own cultural narrative.
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