A DANCE OF LIGHT AND COLOR: EMBROIDERED AND BROCADED GARMENTS OF INDIA
Stager Gallery | Anne Bissonnette, Curator
The woven journey through India's history of dress unravels into a splendid and diverse tale. The second most populous country in the world, India is currently inhabited by over 950 million people. Indians exhibit phenomenally varied ethnicity and culture. At least two dozen major languages are spoken. The predominant religion is Hinduism (83%), but Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains represent important minority religions. This cultural diversity contributes to hand-woven fabrics and traditional dress of stunning variety and beauty.
Weaving is one of the oldest and best known of India's arts. In rural India, where three-quarters of the population still lives, traditional dress and weaving methods remain vital although threatened by the development of power looms and modern mills. Once, weaving was a high-status occupation, with skills handed down from father to son, and injuring a royal weaver was punishable by death. Today, a craftsman still holds an assured, hereditary position, but the rewards are more likely to be personal satisfaction than financial gain. A waning supply of raw materials and traditional dyes and the change in demand has also modified production. Nevertheless, Indian silks retain their worldwide reputation and an export volume second only to that of China.
The dance of bold colors and metallics created by the inventive drapes of these textiles catches the imagination like no other contemporary clothing. Their woven splendors prove the Hindu craftsman right when he states that "the first, the best, and the most perfect of instruments is the human hand".