Wednesday 7 July 2021, Woven Air, Online Talk and Film Screening of Legend of the Loom
Wednesday 7 July 2021, 6 pm BST (British Summer Time, London, UK)
Online talk, hosted on Zoom (*Zoom link will be sent to ticket holders on Tuesday 6 July 2021*)
A recording of the talk, but not the film, will be available to ticket holders after the event.
The event will start with a film screening and introduction by the filmmaker of the independent film, Legend of the Loom. The film screening will be followed by presentations by Sonia Ashmore who will speak about muslin in Georgian England and Mamta Varma on Chikankari.
Legend of the Loom
This documentary focuses on Muslin cloth; its trade and the demise of the industry. Reviewed as a ground-breaking film, Legend of the Loom tells the full story of this world-famous cloth…
Made specifically for international audiences, this documentary takes the viewer on a breath-taking 2000-year-old journey; from the herbariums of the world, the rivers of Bengal where the plant (Gossypium Arboreum Var. Neglecta) grew, to the famous museums of Europe where the best examples of Muslin are still stored.
Researched and scripted by Saiful Islam, the film covers the story of the first foreigners to come to Bengal in search of its fine textiles, the establishment of empires and the opening of trade routes that began to connect the subcontinent to the wider world. Along the way, weavers, farmers, experts, designers, scientists and artisans give their views, add information and perspectives on display techniques, making the story come alive on screen.
Mamta Varma was born and raised in Lucknow’s bustling mercantile district of Chowk. Chowk is also the hub of Chikankari, its most widely traded commodity. Chikankari is the craft of exquisite hand-embroidery that embellished the wardrobes of the Awadh aristocracy. Born into a large extended family, she grew up seeing her mother and aunts embroider their clothes and home linen. Even now, after thirty years of being a part of the Chikankari community she continues to explore the craft with child-like curiosity. Mamta started by making clothes for children, then creating intricate designs for sarees and other traditional outfits. But all around her, Chikankari was undergoing rapid transformation and being mass-produced for scale. The craft and its craftsmanship began to suffer. This commoditisation of Chikankari clashed with her personal philosophy and commitment to preserving quality. Inspired by one of her most talented artisans, Shaquila Bano, Mamta decided to dedicate her life to recreate and preserve traditional motifs of Chikankari. Now, she and her team of more than 300 artisans are some of the finest exponents of the craft. They hope that their service to Lucknow’s living heritage will inspire many more to keep Chikankari contemporary and alive, forever.
About Bhairvi’s Chikankari
This session will try to showcase Chikankari in its purest form. It is often referred to as the silent craft that breathes life into breezy fabrics. For centuries this delicate form of embroidery has embossed the surface of fabrics such as muslin which has been romanticised in the world of textiles as the “woven wind”. Bhairvi’s Chikan, founded by Mamta, has tried to give Chikankari apparel a pan-India appeal by layering it onto handlooms like Jamdani (Bengal), Chanderi and Maheshwari (Central India), Kota (Rajasthan), Pashmina wool (Kashmir), Kanjeevaram Silk (Southern India), Moonga Silk (Assamese) and Tussar Silk (Bihar). These successful experiments have created a repertoire of contemporary clothing that fuse textiles and techniques while staying true to the principles of the craft. We hope this session will not only stimulate your senses but also highlight the social dimension of Chikankari, a trade that is dominated by a large workforce of women artisans.
Dr Sonia Ashmore is a design historian and lecturer based in London. As a Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum, she wrote extensively on the museum’s extensive South Asian Textile Collections including a book on Muslin (V&A, 2012) and subsequently helped to catalogue over 3000 textiles that had been in the museum for more than 130 years. She has been a contributor to Selvedge since 2013 and has made many trips to the Indian subcontinent - and elsewhere.
NB: all virtual talks are non-refundable