To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has put together a rare and wonderful show that has textile lovers all over India swooning. Appropriately titled, “Vignette: Visvakarma Textiles: Art & Artistry,” the exhibition highlights the talents of the weavers across our country, and the role of the Weavers Service Centres (WSCs) in fostering their creativity. The exhibition takes its name from the first Vishwakarma exhibitions (the spelling of this show is different), that were held in the 80s. They highlighted the unparalleled talent of Indian weavers. To create this show, Susan Thomas, Director of NIFT and her team went to several museums in Delhi and Mumbai where these original textiles are stored and chose 25 pieces that could be viewed as “pieces of art.” The result is a rare glimpse into historic textiles and also the talents of the creators.
Vishwakarma is both God and man, the divine architect of the Gods and the God of craftsmen, worshipped by all the artisanal communities, across the country.
In 1909, scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote an influential book called “The Indian Craftsman.” In it, he talked about how Indian weavers see themselves as mediums rather than makers. This humility personified traditional Indian artisans who viewed Vishvakarma as originator and creator of their work. As Coomaraswamy says, “The craftsman is not an individual expressing individual whims, but a part of the universe, giving expression to ideals of beauty and unchanging laws much like the trees and flowers are expressing God-given beauty.”
To properly experience the grandeur of these textiles, you must visit in person, spend an hour and commune with them. Here are a few close-up vignettes from the exhibition.
“Vignette: Visvakarma Textiles: Art & Artistry,” is on at the National Gallery of Modern Art throught September 17 (which happens to be Vishwakarma Diwas)