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Beauty of a heritage blanket

Beauty of a heritage blanket | November 19, 2015
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A recent show in Pune wove together traditional blankets with stories and photographs.

The godhadi is a famous hand-stitched blanket native to Maharashtra. It is made by women from refurbished old saris or pieces of cloth. The end result is like a collage of sorts; as if different painters laboured over a single canvas to create a harmonious symphony.

Godhadis are integral to the social fabric of Maharashtra. Often handed down through generations as family heirlooms, these humble blankets are repositories of personal histories, memories and stories about their makers, essentially women.

Two Pune-based artists, Ruby Jhunjhunwala and Shraddha Borawake, have revived and almost resurrected the godhadi in a collaborative exhibition called ‘Her: Within and Without.’

The two women set out on a journey to explore the social and personal relevance of the humble blanket and collaborated on a two-year project that culminated in a large-scale installation at Pune's Monalisa Kalagram, a vibrant art space that supports myriad endeavours in artistic expression. It is soon becoming a nodal point for its sheer willingness to engage with alternative experiments in a city otherwise riddled with amateurish watercolour shows and an irredeemable obsession with rural landscapes.

‘Her: Within and Without’ began with eight discarded photographs from lens-based artist Shraddha's personal archives. These photographs featuring a woman and her pink godhadi were taken at Sachkuri village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

Ceramic artist Ruby almost instinctively gravitated towards the rejected photographs to attempt a rendition of the visual in her ceramic idiom and thus began a dialogue between two creative women and their respective mediums. The result is a range of exhibits from digital prints on cloth canvas with running stitch to photography on metal and ceramic plates and a huge installation using the needles used to make godhadis.

The godhadi is the main muse, a recurring motif in the exhibition. While Shraddha's observant images capture the godhadi in different shapes, forms and textures, Ruby's ceramic sculptures are a direct response to the pictorial depiction. From folds, shapes, and the patterns of godhadis, Ruby's sensitive and detailed depiction of the process is indeed praiseworthy.

The exhibition not only celebrates or situates the godhadi in its rightful local context but institutionalises it by creating a seamless assimilation with the gallery space and according it the attention a disappearing heritage deserves.

Personal stories are littered all over the gallery space and the artists seem to be investigating issues of identity and gender in a post-globalised world through the godhadi. The entrance of the exhibition displays a pink godhadi, perhaps setting the mood of the show and preparing the viewers for the dialogue that is about to ensue between the observer and the observed.

This collaborative installation project serves as an education for every viewer who sees not just the godhadi or the process of its making but feels compelled to think about something local yet global, rudimentary yet profound. That to my mind is the success of the exhibition. It makes an impact that is not only emotional but also deeply intellectual.

Prof Kunal Ray teaches English Literature at FLAME University, and contributes to prestigious publications like The Hindu.

(Source: http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/godhadi-is-the-main-muse-and-motif-of-her-within-and-without-exhibition/article7896035.ece)