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Ajrakh: Artist captures traditional textile's charm in show

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Ajrakh, one of the oldest traditions of block printing on textiles still practiced in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan is highlighted in city-based artist Shelly Jyoti's new body of work.

Jyoti had in her show last September introduced works that highlighted ajrakh traditions of printing and dyeing on khadi fabric.

She has taken it further in her upcoming show "Salt: The Great March II (Re-Contextualizing Ajrakh Textile Traditions on Khadi in Contemporary Art and Craft) beginning here from September 3.

It includes khadi fabric installations, garments with ajrakh printing, paintings that document the country's textile traditions using clothing samplers, a spoken poetry video film as well as 24 artworks utilising Ajrakh.

The 56-year-old artist says she is attracted to the Ajrakh tradition.

"Ajrakh is one of the oldest types of block printing on textiles still practiced in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. This is a centuries-old craft practiced by Khatris and characterised by its complex geometrical patterns."

It uses natural dyes and its production process is extensive and requires great skill.

The patterns share similarities with ancient Indus Valley Civilisation patterns, and those of the medieval cloth traded along the Indian Ocean route.

"I personally feel responsible towards the craft as I feel heritage should be preserved and documented through visual art works," says Jyoti.

A site-specific installation titled "Integrating khadi", has been fashioned out of khadi and printed with Sanskrit calligraphy.

"Large-scale industrialisation in the textile sector led to large-scale automation and the use of synthetic fibers. I am now exploring if urban population pledges to buy and wear khadi as one's duty, can this action of swadharma bring a revolution and bridge rural and urban gap" says the artist.

She says she wants to explore the act of wearing khadi as a symbol of national pride in the 21st century.

The installation, in its formal and technical organisation tries to emulate the brisk walking of Mahatma Gandhi and his volunteers surging on towards Dandi.

The shape of sails also implies a kinetic feel that she adds to the installation.

Another installation "Timeless Silhouettes: Angrakhas", showcases a series of five garment-based artworks (paintings with Ajrakh pattern).

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First Published: Fri, August 29 2014. 12:45 IST