Did you know that there are similarities between our own Kancheepuram saree and the silk Kimono from Japan? Or, there is a similar love for handmade textiles in both the countries – India and Japan? Observing various transnational cultural connections through her research, social anthropologist Aarti Kawlra will share insights into the topic in her talk titled Craft Conversations: India-Japan and the Making of an Asian Modern Textile Aesthetic. Through her talk, Aarti aims to create a craftscape between both the nations.
“The idea of a transnational craftscape in my talk highlights the shared affinities between India and Japan in the realm of textile techniques and not merely the love of collecting and consuming textiles. Crafts and handloom have always been seen as a part of national heritage and when we think of tie and dye, we imagine natives working on it, but some of the techniques used in India were born out of transnational textile exchange between both the countries,” says the scholar, whose interest in Japan was ignited in 2000 when she was a research scholar at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka. “I researched on the silk kimono of Nishijin in Kyoto and was able to compare it to my own research on the silk handloom sari in Kancheepuram. I wrote a research article called the Kimono Body. I found that the Japanese have a very strong affinity to handmade textiles and we share that love with them,” she adds.
Talking about similarities, the scholar adds from her observations that there are many Japanese designers who work with Indian artisans to produce fabulous textiles for both Indian market and the market for handmade textiles in Tokyo. “But there are also Indian designers working with Japanese inspirations. The Japanese textile tradition — like the Indian textile tradition has ikat, tie-dye, printing, gold weaves and brocade — just like ours. The Japanese craftspersons, however, have a very different social and economic status than our artisans. We have a lot to learn from Japan in that respect,” she informs.
Aarti also points out that in Japan, women from middle-class backgrounds not only collect textiles, but also learn how to sew, weave and print, and in India we have designers who work with craftspersons and textile artistes, who weave or experiment with techniques. Covering all these aspects, Aarti will also examine the re-articulation of craft during the post war period in both India and Japan as a backdrop to contemporary craft conversations between the two.
The talk is scheduled at Apparao Galleries at 6 pm on July 31.