The story of phulkari is incomplete without mentioning two people who have custom built a life of service around the cause of protecting Punjab’s traditional craft against modern decay. Phulkari for them is Punjab’s greatest creative boon and to honour its legacy is their responsibility. Kirandeep Kaur and Harinder Singh have worked tirelessly to preserve their culture’s creative repository, one installation after the other, one exhibition after the other. In their recent effort, the couple shares yet another dose of Punjabiath that showcase slivers from its historically rich, and currently relevant way of life.
None of the displays needs any caption. Their visual character is replete with deep meaning, etched with stories that have faded to oblivion. The bicycle with three brass dolus, traditionally used to carry milk from one house to the other in Punjab, stands as a reflection of a diminishing daily practice. “In winters, when so many traditional sweets are made with milk, we thought it would be nice to create a piece that serves as a snippet from those times when these were the only things used to transport milk. It also talks of the abundance of dairy farming in Punjab,” says Kaur.
In another corner, you see artworks of ornaments that women in Punjab wear during festivities. There is the gehne worn by men and women. The valliyaan is a set of rings with gold beads or carving, worn on the edge of the ear. The passaa is an ornate hanging to be put on one side of the head, popular among brides these days. Tikka is a small ornament worn in the middle of the forehead, attached to a chain.
Then there is the saggi phull, three studs in the form of gold hemispheres put on top of the head to support the dupatta or phulkari, worn especially during giddha performance. The kaintha is typically worn as a neckpiece by men performing Bhangra. There is also a photo of novelist Amrita Pritam. “These are just some of the rich representations from our native land, one that youngsters today have become isolated from. Each of our products from 1469 brand also tries to generate links with the past. But unfortunately we are more valued by NRIs and foreigners than out own Dilli wallas,” says Kaur.
In her family, they are strongly tied by the one thing that is quickly dismissed as unimportant—language.
“Today I see people adopting English as if it’s a matter of prestige. There is no harm in knowing the language but it is important for you and your children to embrace your verbal roots. After all, it’s part of our value system,” she says. And that exactly what they keep coming back for.