Instead of the regular black graduation gowns, students of IIT Hyderabad (IITH) at their recent convocation paid tributes to local weavers by wearing Pochampalli ‘capes’ made by them.
Prof Deepak Mathew, head of the department of design at the institute, had, a few months ago, made the proposal that black graduation gowns be discarded for what he called a “cross between a stole and a cape, held in place with a button” made by weavers at Pochampalli village in Telangana (where IITH is located). The regular practice till this year has been to rent gowns from local suppliers, each costing Rs 450. Costs of the woven pieces were approximately the same but this time the students got these as a keepsake.
Mathew, who has also worked with the National Institute of Design, has previously engaged the Pochampalli weavers in classroom projects and has documented their craft. For the convocation he had to work with them to get the IITH logo woven into the fabric. Known for their fabulous Pochampalli saris or ikat (a tie and dye weave) the weavers dye the warp and weft threads to create designs and patterns on fabric.
The convocation capes had colour codes - BTech wore deep brown; MTech wore light blue and PhD scholars were given yellow. Offsetting them perfectly were white kurtas and pyjamas, though the students were also told they could wear dhotis.
Prof Mathew hopes to improve upon the design next year. This year, the weavers were given just two months to make the capes even though they needed at least 90 days. “We will give them six months next year to make the pieces, and are hoping to create something better,” he says.This is also a good way for the institute to support a local craft and make their art sustainable.