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Khadi on canvas

| GEETHA JAYARAMAN
Published : Oct 24, 2016, 11:13 pm IST
Updated : Oct 24, 2016, 11:13 pm IST

Shelly Jyoti pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi AND highlights the textile heritage of India in her exhibition ‘The Khadi March: Just Five Meters’

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Shelly Jyoti pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi AND highlights the textile heritage of India in her exhibition ‘The Khadi March: Just Five Meters’

Delhi-based visual artist Shelly Jyoti known for her textile installations revisits numerous philosophies of Gandhi and ponders over ideas of swadharma in her recent exhibition. Titled ‘The Khadi March: Just Five Meters’, Shelly uses khadi both as a symbol and as a material that expresses how contemporary society could engage in swadharma towards the nation in order to create a better society.

The exhibition is designed to be a study for those who want to understand what the khadi movement stands for, and what it has been able to do. On display are site-specific installations and 20 Ajrakh textile works made using khadi, centuries-old tradition of printing and kantha embroidery. “The exhibition is an extension of my 2008 show titled ‘Indigo Narratives’, where I examined the plight of indigo farmers while gaining a deeper understanding of Gandhi’s views on non-violence, swadeshi, swaraj and khadi. That is when I decided to explore it in contemporary times through my work,” shares the artist.

She continues, “I am trying to bridge a dialogue between the urban and the rural population, and rethink our engagement with spinners, weavers and handicraft makers. If once a year, people buy five metres of khadi material, we can contribute immensely to empower the weavers and spinners. It is the most effortless way of connecting with them.”

To create these artworks, Shelly has worked extensively with 10th generation ajrakh textile artisans based in Bhuj, Gujarat. Utilising printing blocks that are two to three hundred years old, Shelly’s individual pieces draw attention to a shared history whose preservation is currently threatened by the forces of globalisation. “While working with those who have inherited and are passing on our textile traditions, I have been able to consider the critical relationship between the materials and the traditional processes used in ajrakh production, the role of artisan as a maker and the role of artist as a visualiser. The khadi artworks have been made using the fiber and natural dyes of ajrakh traditions. As a visual artist, I feel responsible to create artworks that connect the past and the present.”

The exhibition also includes jackets in indigo-dyes made using ajrakh prints on khadi, Gandhi topis, flags and more. “The aim is to document the rich tradition of our country. Also, I have used timeless silhouettes of angrakha series to create contemporary silhouettes. The different contemporary silhouettes, historically known as the angrakha and the jama reflect the influence of the Moghul period. The 2D garment artwork is contemporary in its structure, while the silhouette has a breast fit and is loose around the body,” explains Shelly.