Curator Lavina Baldota explains why you must check out Sutr Santati, her exhibition on Indian textiles

Curator Lavina Baldota talks about her tryst with Indian textiles, the inspiration behind Sutr Santati, and everything in between.
Chanakya school of craft
Embroidered tapestry by Chanakya School of Craft. Image: Courtesy Sutr Santati.

Celebrating 75 years of Independence, galleries across the country decided to revisit India’s artistic heritage and timeless craftsmanship through beautiful interpretations. A first-of-its-kind exhibition, Sutr Santati represents over 100 traditional Indian textiles by close to 75 participants, and highlights the diverse interpretations of beautiful textile craftsmanship of India, designed to foster Indian pride.

Scheduled to launch on August 18, 2022 at National Museum Delhi, Sutr Santati will later travel to various Indian and international museums throughout the year taking the offering of Indian heritage textiles globally.

Lavina Baldota, a curator, textiles revivalist, and conservationist, presented the first of Santati exhibitions titled Santati Mahatma Gandhi: Then Now Next in 2018-19, and marked the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, paying homage to his progressive views on sustainability and circular industries through textiles, fashion and design. 

In a conversation with TravelDine, Baldota sheds light on what this textiles exhibition is really about, what to expect from it, and why exactly it is of utmost importance to preserve the heritage textiles of India at all costs.

Lavina baldota
Lavina Baldota is a prominent curator and conservationist. Image: Courtesy Sutr Santati.

What’s the idea behind Sutr Santati? What inspired you to curate this exhibition? 

Sutr Santati was conceptualised to celebrate 75 years of Indian independence, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav through the continuum of our textile heritage. During the pandemic, many weavers and craftspeople got a major setback. I felt that for them to sustain a lot of awareness had to be created amongst the designers and the consumers. Only if there is commerce, the crafts will survive. Sutr Santati is an endeavour to bring to the forefront several people working in the field of textiles  whether they are weavers, artisans, designers, artists, printers, dyers, organisations, or even students from design institutes.   

The exhibition will bring together diverse textile traditions of the country, conceived and created by some of its most prominent artisans, craftspeople, designers, and artists. In the specially commissioned fabrics presented here, they view the themes, techniques, and materials used through the lens of innovation. In doing so, they reinforce the value of fabric — an important legacy of Indian nationalism — to define the country’s contemporary artistic landscape, and to push its creativity into the future.  

Sutr santati
Naga Chair by Ashiesh Shah. Image: Courtesy Sutr Santati.

The exhibition is launching soon. What can your guest expect?  

Sutr Santati has around 100 textiles from across India. It is a repository of Indian textile traditions practiced currently. On view are textiles created with the processes of hand weaving, embroidery, resist-dyeing, printing, painting, and appliqué, among other forms of yarn and fabric manipulation. The exhibits are created using natural indigenous yarns as well as natural and azo-free dyes. The fibers employed in these commissions range from local varieties such as Kandu and Kala cotton, mulberry and wild silks, camel and sheep wool, goat and yak hair.  

As a conservationist, how crucial it is, in your opinion, to revive or preserve heritage crafts by local artisans?  

It is our responsibility to preserve this heritage for our future. It is a two prong process: One is to create awareness and appreciation for the crafts, other is to present opportunity and dignity for our craftspeople.  We also have to make our crafts relevant for global use. Sustainability and the circular economy have been cornerstones of Sutr Santati. By using indigenous yarns, we are supporting the farmers. We are creating awareness amongst the designers to engage in using Indian fabrics and work with the crafts people to create one’s own design language.

The use of natural yarns and dyes is another step towards reducing the pollution that the textile industry is known to cause in the environment. Going back to traditional practices was a challenge but we were able to push boundaries. For instance, in Telangana, we revived an old ‘Telia Rumal’ design, which has 99 different motifs done in ikat using handspun cotton yarn!   

Label shunya
Tagore Poetry in Batik by Kartik Manna from the Label Shunya. Image: Courtesy Sutr Santati.

Where will Sutr Santati be traveling in the coming months, other than New Delhi? 

The immediate plan is to exhibit next in Baroda, followed by Mumbai. We are also doing a digital exhibition for a wider reach.   

Which three are your personal favorites when it comes to Indian textiles?  

Ikat, muslin Jamdani, and Kota doria are among my top favorite weaves. I also love ajrakh prints, and embroidery chikankari is my personal favorite.   

Best spots to buy authentic Indian textiles in Delhi and around India.  

Shops like Kamala of Delhi Crafts Council, Vaya, La affaire, Raw Mango, Good Earth, and state emporiums. There are also many online websites like Okhai, Go Coop, Jaypore, Taneira, and Aadyam that you can check out. It is always the best to first find out about the ‘what, how, where, and who’ made it, before you buy.

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