From old textiles to contemporary fashion, Indian fabrics go on display at UK’s Victoria & Albert Museum as a part of the India Festival.
The Fabric of India is the first exhibition to explore Indian textiles and forms the centrepiece of the festival.
“This was a tremendous task and we looked at it from a historic perspective as well as making it relevant today. There is a vague chronology to give it a sense of history but the broad divisions reflect the technical mastery and creativity of Indian textiles,” said Divia Patel, co-curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition offers an introduction to the raw materials and processes of making cloth by hand.
Displays of the basic fibres of silk, cotton and wool illustrate the importance of India’s natural resources to its textile-making traditions and two-third’s of the exhibits are from the V&A’s own collections.
The remaining have been borrowed by museums and private collections in India, the US and France.
The opening section shows fabrics dyed with natural materials such as pomegranate and indigo and the complex techniques of block printing, weaving and embroidery across the ages, together creating a visual compendium of India’s astonishingly diverse array of fabrics.
Highlights range from muslin embroidered with glittering green beetle wings, to a vast wall hanging appliqued with designs of elephants and geometrical patterns, to a boy’s jacket densely embroidered with brightly coloured silk thread and mirrors.
Wealth, power and religious devotion are all expressed through textiles, and the exhibition examines how fabrics were used in courtly and spiritual life.
Fabrics created for temples and shrines vary widely in imagery and techniques, depending on the religions context, level of patronage and region of production.