Ganesh Chaturthi

Tibetan ceremonial brocades you can drape

16 April,2019 07:23 AM IST |   |  Shweta Shiware

A team of textile designers, anthropologists and weavers come together to reimagine gyaser fabric in a stunning 40-saree collection showcased at a SoBo gallery

Gallery Maskara hosts Between Land and Sky - Woven Gold from the Gyaser Tradition exhibit that tells a curated story of the "other Silk Route" which saw monks and merchants inspired by the silk tapestry of China reach out to master weavers in Benaras, nic

This textile exhibition is unique for the connection it draws between Tibetan monks, Benarasi weavers and Himalayan ceremonial brocades. Presented by one of South Asia-s leading art collectors, Czaee Shah, Between Land & Sky - Woven Gold from the Gyaser Tradition opens today at Gallery Maskara. And it strikes a delicate balance. While on one hand, it maps the story of the "other Silk Route" which saw monks and merchants inspired by the silk tapestry of China reach out to master weavers in Benaras, on the other, it celebrates the design intervention by textile designer duo Swati and Sunaina.

Gyaser is a type of Tibetan brocade with a warp of silk and a weft of silk and zari, giving it a rich appearance. It was the perfect amalgamation of Chinese Buddhist satin-silk designs and the artistry of Muslim weavers from Benaras. The ceremonial tapestries that were once imported from China, after the 1800s, began to be made in India after Tibetan monks grew impressed with the brocade weaving techniques of Mughal-era craftsmen.

Swati and Sunaina

For Swati and Sunaina, the challenge was to reimagine the densely patterned silk-brocade fabric, reduce its weight and increase the width to make it viable for a saree drape, without messing with its original character.

Dr Monisha Ahmed; Czaee Shah

A special zari was created in silver of 98.5 per cent purity and electroplated with 24-carat gold to achieve the bright tone that-s gyaser-s signature attribute. Originally, the holy cloth carried religious Buddhist and Chinese symbols, but after careful deliberation, the team decided that the final collection of sarees would integrate floral motifs of the carnation, lotus, chrysanthemum, rose and lily, also typically found in Buddhist and Chinese traditions. "We are not claiming to have reinvented a weave. That would be arrogant. By showcasing Swati and Sunaina-s work as part of gyaser-s larger storytelling tradition, we are acknowledging its rich and diverse 200-year-old history," says Mayank Mansingh Kaul. The Delhi-based curator and writer is scenographer for this exhibition, translating Dr Monisha Ahmed-s curatorial vision into an immersive experience.

Mayank Mansingh Kaul

Dr Ahmed, a Mumbai-based anthropologist, is co-founder and executive director of the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation LAMO in Leh, and has a doctorate in nomadic textiles including gyaser. She tells us that most still believe gyaser has its origins in China. Since the nomadic communities of Tibet didn-t have thick enough looms required for gyaser weaving, Benaras became the manufacturing hub.

The exhibit also deliberates on India-s bittersweet relationship with its textiles; they are everywhere in our lives, our culture, our politics, leading to the tendency to take them for granted. "Unlike Japan and China, we wear our textile traditions. High street brands can-t take that away from us. Textile-based sarees are exceptional pieces of art, and its collectors are the new-age patrons," Dr Ahmed thinks.

What to expect at the show

Woven gold brocade saree by textile designer duo Swati and Sunaina

The exhibition traces the evolution of gyaser from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to now, and its journey from China, Chinese-occupied Tibet and parts of Nepal to Bhutan and India. It begins with robes inspired by Chinese brocades, and moves to gyaser silk-brocades worn by the monks and priests at monasteries in Tibet in the 1960s. Two important pieces have been loaned by a private collector who lived and worked in Sikkim. This is followed by the collection of 20 sarees priced at R6 lakh onwards. Dr Monisha Ahmed has lent the exhibit 10 pieces from her personal collection, while David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore fashion brand, has loaned two items.

Gyaser on a loom in Benaras

AT Gallery Maskara, Apollo Bunder, Colaba
TILL April 20

TIME 11 am to 6 pm

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