Every sari tells a story, more so, if it is a hand-woven heirloom one. Gunjan Jain’s first ever-solo exhibition, Not just Ikat that has various varieties of Odisha handloom saris has a story to tell.
Jain established her own company named Vriksh six years ago in order to save the cultural heritage of the Odisha textile. “Every hand-woven piece tells the story of the weave and the weaver. Take the Bomkai weave, among the rare original weaves that Odisha was once famous for. The weavers have inherited their colour and design sense from their ancestors who, like the most modern of designers, were inspired by their immediate environment,”
The exhibition will have wide varieties of saris such as the finest tussar by coastal weavers, rare and original Bomokoi and Dhalapathar cotton saris; experimental yarn-dyed silk and tussar ikats; blends of tussar with organic khadi cotton; and natural-dye dabu block prints that go beyond the traditional Ikat variety which is well-known in Odisha. Jain explains, “For most people, Odisha’s textiles begin and end with Ikat. And who can blame them? On one hand there is the versatile, intricate beauty of ikat. On the other hand, other weaves have become increasingly obscure, irrelevant and hard to find. From the tribal belt of Koraput to rare Bomkai, Dhalapathar and Habaspuri sarees there was so much to Odia textile than Ikat that I felt the world needed to revisit.”
It took Jain seven years to compile the exhibition which was a conceptualised around a constant reminder that handloom is not just about weaving beautiful fabrics. “I travelled to different weaving villages of Odisha to rediscover and revive the lost weaves by understanding its cultural and socio-economic relevance,” she elaborates.
She also dispels the thought that handloom saris are difficult to carry off or that it cannot be accessorised. “I think it is a misconception. There are more than 300 ways of draping an Indian sari One can drape a casual Odissi Kachcha style sari drape over a t-shirt or replace the petticoat with shorts. Women need to start exploring these unlimited possibilities and think creative ways to drape the 9 yards.” she concludes.