A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are. ~ Steve Berry
When we think about our heritage, especially in the context of Asia & South Asian region, the legacy of textiles & related art forms is one of the major influences that have shaped the history of many countries in the region, in particular India. The rich Indian heritage of textiles, be it embroidery, block printing, weaving or hand painting, is our most precious tangible heritage. It was during my early years of work travel, going into the interiors of Gujarat and Odisha that I realised how exquisite textiles are being created by some of the most talented yet poor artisans. It has also made me a lifelong lover of handloom and hand-woven textiles; they are not only unique and much more durable than a lot of fast fashion, they are also the soul of sustainable fashion. And I have believed over the years, that anyone who goes on a textile trail, watches the process, interacts with the artisans, will never again haggle for prices as the effort behind the price will then seem too less!
It was therefore with much excitement that I went on a textile trail in my own city Delhi with Breakaway #BreakawayTrails and #JayporeJourneys, which was put together by my wonderful Facebook Group – TCBG #TCBG_Trips.
We started off quite early on a weekend morning and our first stop was Mura Collective, located in the bylanes of Neb Sarai, Delhi. The trail leaders Shilpa & Bindu briefed us that it was a shibori manufacturing unit and I was quite curious about the fact that such a workshop even exists in the city!
The Mura Collective is a venture by two lovely sisters Prabha and Kusum, who started the venture around 20 years ago. It was fascinating to listen to their journey of coming across Shibori dyeing, experimenting with it and then finally going into the business in full force, learnings over the years and the process they follow as of today. The sisters took us around their workshop and each process of Shibori manufacture. For me the most exciting moment was when the dyed pieces of garments were left in the sun to dry and they turned into indigo from green in a couple of minutes. Also, me being a complete shopaholic could not resist buying from the workshop (more so as there was a factory sale on!).
We then took a rather long time (all due to the horrible delhi traffic) to travel to Kamayani – which Shilpa said was the best kept textile secret of Delhi. The long drive also gave us the opportunity to chat with Shilpa Sharma, owner of Breakaway (www.break-away.in) #BreakAwayTrails and also co-founder of Indian Handloom & Handicraft online website – Jaypore (www.jaypore.com).
Shilpa told us that she started Breakaway much before she started Jaypore, with the idea to introduce fellow travellers to the beauty of Indian textile heritage.
“Breakaway is not a travel company as much as a company of travellers who love nothing more than to help fellow travellers look into the eyes of India’s people and thus, into her very soul. Breakaway specializes in arts, crafts & textile tours and our national footprint also spans plantation tours, social sector interactions, bespoke travels, and our very own Beyond the Brochure experiences. At Breakaway, we pride ourselves on offering an unmatched range of experiences and interactions in the crafts and textile sectors. “
The moment we walked into Kamayani (located in the posh South Delhi neighborhood of Anand Lok), we were transported into a fascinating world and we were bombarded!! At least my senses were bombarded with the stunning array of textiles, weaves and crafts – There were the exquisite chamba ‘do muha’ embroidery rumals, the most spectacular Pichwai paintings, Jamdanis from Bangladesh, Kantha Work, heritage Phulkaridupattas, mukaish work, Chikankari work, Patan Patola, Telia Rumal and Kalamkari. I could have bought the whole store if I had the money!!! I am going back therefore sure. Kamayani is the labour of love of Ms. Kamayani & Ms Saloni, one of whom is also a Crafts Council of India member.
By the time we were finished up with Kamayani visit and a rather late lunch, it was a bit late to visit the Textile Museum in Gurgaon. So, Shilpa and Bindu decided to take us to a different kind of textile related experience – Exhibition at IGNCA called ‘Living Lightly; Journey with Pastoralists’. The exhibition was on the life and journeys of different Pastoral communities all over India and how their lives are beautifully intertwined to the earth & its eco-system. Keeping with our textile trail theme for the day, our exhibition guide took us to the sections focussing on the Maldhari & Khatri communities, their related trades, community relationships and changes over time. The Khatri community today is famous for ajrakh textiles and the exhibition has beautifully showcased the changing relationship between the communities, the related changes that has occurred in the way ajrakh manufacturing has evolved and reached a wider audience and how it has affected the sub-economics and relationships within the pastoral community.
The exhibition visit was also the last segment of our textile trail and it was apt end to the most enriching day I have spent in my city Delhi in recent times. I would recommend any and every textile & heritage lover, who wants to explore travelling a bit differently, to get in touch with Breakaway Trails. They indeed offer a bespoke experience.