Stories on fabric
Museum of Art & Photography’s virtual exhibition, Painted Stitches, Woven Stories, throws light on the historical and cultural significance of kantha quilting.
BENGALURU : Warmth of a loving one and a familiar smell of nostalgia... Kantha quilts surely bring back a lot of memories from the past. It does not just keep one warm but also shows the craftsmanship of the hands who have made it. Paying an ode to these arts and the artists, city-based Museum of Art & Photography is holding a virtual exhibition, Painted Stitches, Woven Stories, on kantha quilting practices in India.
The exhibition unfolds a dialogue between interpretations of 19th and 20th-century quilting techniques of kantha and works by Indian modern and contemporary artists, who continue to provide visibility to the weaving practices of kantha textiles. Vaishnavi Kambadur, who has curated the exhibition along with Arnika Ahldag, says that for centuries, women across the world have been making textiles in their homes, often out of need, or simply to recycle old material. They use it to keep their children warm, to cover a table, to hold their precious belongings or even to decorate the floors and walls of their homes.
Ahldag is also of the similar view. She says that kanthas are special as they find a place in so many Indian households and even across the world. “They speak of the makers and their surroundings; yet we do not know the names of these makers in most cases,” says Ahldag, adding that they wanted to make people look at kanthas again and understand their distinctive role in influencing the work and practices of modern and contemporary artists.
Agreeing, Kambadur says, one of the primary aims of the exhibition is to make people aware of the value and legacy of kantha quilts. “We want viewers to understand the deeply intimate role of a kantha in the lives of its makers, whether two centuries ago or in the contemporary times. For instance, the contemporary artist Bhasha Chakrabarti’s quilts provide a personal story of her relationship with her mother while challenging the histories of kantha,” she details.
To emphasise the relevance of the textile in the history of art, the exhibition explores how the repurposing techniques of the kanthas of Undivided Bengal left an imprint on several artists who grew up observing the weaving practices. For instance, the popular motifs and stitches of kanthas form an important element in the works of acclaimed Indian artists such as Meera Mukherjee, Jyoti Bhatt and Arpita Singh. However, Kambadur believes that textile art is yet to get the same status as the art or sculpture. “But the dialogue has started and hopefully we see the change soon,” she says optimistically.
At the exhibition
The exhibition unfolds a dialogue between interpretations of 19th and 20th-century quilting techniques of kantha and works by Indian modern and contemporary artists, who continue to provide visibility to the weaving practices of kantha textiles.