To continue with Elizabeth’s Kolbert’s river metaphor, I am reminded of a gift a friend who knew me too well gave me at the beginning of my ministry. It was a poster of a landscape featuring a river. The caption beneath it read, “Don’t push the river”. This intrinsically Taoist wisdom taunted me from its primacy of place on the wall facing my desk. All my stereotypic male traits wanted to move the river faster; straighten its meandering nature; keep it carefully constrained within its banks. There was way too much to be done to accept the river’s natural pace. The river’s course might be more picturesque, but posters be damned, it wasn’t efficient or fit for purpose from my limited view. Time to push it.
Optical illusions are fun. In part because they are universal as far as I know. The word illusion comes from the Latin word illudere, meaning “to mock”. These illusions trick our brains into perceiving something different from physical reality. Three common ones are illusory motion (images that appear to be moving), double pictures (images that contain two pictures in one), and impossible objects (images that make sense when drawn on paper, but which could never exist in real life!).
Craftivism is a movement in which people come together to create pieces of handwork which reflect our desire for a better world. These craft pieces can be sent as messages to people in positions of power, or left in strategic places as pieces of “graffiti “. In the process of making, we enjoy the companionship of fellow dreamers.
This talk is an introduction to one story (there are many) of how the ancient arts of weaving and embroidery are being revived amongst the artisans of Gujarat and West Bengal in India. The story is told through my eyes, which were opened on a Traditional Textiles tour to India in 2019.
I joined Joji’s Jacob’s Traditional Textiles of India Tour in October 2019. It was dazzling!
India: drenched in colour, the vibrancy of the people, the fascinating accommodation including the 19th century Itachuna Rajbari in West Bengal, or the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel in Lucknow the Terracotta Temples, the idol makers workshops in Kolkata, the stunning traditional weaving and embroideries, the breath-taking ancient step wells whose stories are carved into the stone walls and pillars. And…the Chambal River ride alive with crocodiles and gharials. All of these will linger long in my memory.
But today, I want to talk about one of the major reasons for my choosing this tour over the many others, that was the social justice emphasis on supporting the revival of the ancient weaving and embroidery arts by the artisans of India, that were almost lost due the deliberate, brutal repressive policies of the British East India Company and later the British Raj.