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Colourful threads knit vibrant narratives through India

Two Delhi artists are creating street art with yarn. Their 13,000 kilometers journey spread over four months has Delhi as the starting point for every new journey.

art and culture Updated: Jan 04, 2017 18:12 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Delhi artist Rahul Chaudhary wraps yarn at a tribal museum in Bhopal.
Delhi artist Rahul Chaudhary wraps yarn at a tribal museum in Bhopal.

If you take the train to the northeast from Delhi or back, don’t be surprised to find beautiful patterns of threads on your train’s window frame. The threads, woven in different patterns, are a part of the project, Yarn Yatra.

Executed by two Delhi-based artists, Pankaj Saroj and Rahul Chaudhary, this four-month-long project is inspired from the concept of Yarn bombing – a street art that has colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre.

Artists Pankaj Saroj and Rahul Chaudhary.

As part of this project, the duo are covering 13,000 kilometers through the eastern and western coasts of India, mostly by train. “We started from Delhi and made some yarn artworks in Mandi House with combinations of red, white and blue. That was part of our first track. Presently, we are in Uttar Pradesh, our second track, which will end in Assam. Each time we finish a yatra (journey), we head back to Delhi,” says Chaudhary.

What made them take up this street art, which is popular in the West? “I didn’t know that what I had been doing for so many years was already known as Yarn bombing in the West,” says Saroj, whose work is inspired from his upbringing in a village near Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh. “As a child I used to see my father, a farmer by profession, knitting the charpoy. In fact, in villages, most daily chores use the knitting technique,” he adds.

Yarn wrapped on plastic pipes at Kanoria Centre for Arts in Ahmedabad.

Saroj and Chaudhary have used the same process to create street art on trees and even at the stalls of local chaiwallahs. “We opted for trains, because there’s no bigger connector than the Indian Railways, and our art, which uses yarn, is also based on the idea of connecting people. It’s the same reason why we have made artworks at tea stalls in different cities,” says Chaudhary.

A yarn bombing on the window of a train in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.

From knitting a headgear for a scrap dealer to creating a crocheted installation for a gallery, the duo have been experimenting with the yarn. “It isn’t easy though. When we were creating a pattern on a train window in Ujjain, the security police fined us for vandalism, even though we proved them that what we are doing is part of our art project,” says Chaudhary.