Thursday, February 12, 2015

The IQSCM Returns to India

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

My knowledge of India is, for better or worse, focused in large part on two things: textiles and Hindi language cinema, aka Bollywood.

As far as textiles go, learning about and coming to deeply appreciate Indian quilts has been a highlight of my work at IQSCM. Collecting and researching quilts from India gave me the opportunity to not only go there for the first time in 2009 but also to help curate an exhibition on South Asian quilts in 2010.

Our Indian collection includes nearly 100 pieces from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, among other states, and it reveals the amazing diversity of Indian textile traditions. Complex embroidery, applique, patchwork, and quilting are all represented and each style is unique to its region, with colors, motifs, and formats changing from place to place. This fantastic piece features hundreds of strips of fabric taken from used clothing -- upcycling at its best!

Gudari from Maharashtra, India -- gift of Geeta Khandelwal, IQSCM 2009.049.0007

And this quilt, despite its simple color palette, is complex in its imagery, intricately depicting animals, people and plants of the Bengal region.

Kantha from West Bengal, India -- IQSCM 2006.039.0002

As for Bollywood, I don't think it was a coincidence that as we were building our Indian quilt collection, I also developed a minor obsession with Hindi language cinema. The music, the dancing, and the melodrama--all of it appeals to me.

Raj Kapoor, Nargis, and me.
And in some ways, the colorful nature of Bollywood movies relates to the exuberance of Indian quilts. The energy and playfulness of songs like "Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna," which features Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in an engagement party scene, parallel the vibrancy and boldness of many Indian quilts.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to return to India. Leslie Levy, IQSCM executive director, and I went to Mumbai to attend an exhibition of quilts from the collection of Geeta Khandelwal, businesswoman, author, quiltmaker, and former member of the IQSCM International Advisory Board. The event also celebrated the book launch for Geeta's Godharis of Maharashtra, Western India.

Geeta Khandelwal with her book,
Godharis of Maharashtra, Western India
It was wonderful to see our old friend, Geeta, and to make many new friends as well, like the Patils of Connecticut.

Vijay Patil, me, Leslie Levy, Geeta Khandelwal, Lata Patil
I was also pleased and honored to be asked to give a lecture, "Quilts in Common: Quiltmaking Around the World and Across the Centuries," at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). I had a full and appreciative audience, all of whom enjoyed the beauty and history of quilts from a range of times and places.

Our trip was such a success that I think it means only one thing: we must go back to India soon . . . .

. . . . if only for the beautiful tile floors :)

No comments:

Post a Comment