The threads of handloom speak to me every time I enter my closet, despite the fact that it’s a rare occurrence for me to wear a sari now that we no longer live in India. Even without that particular garment, half of my wardrobe is comprised of beautiful pieces of extraordinary workmanship, in handloom, shibori dying, and embroidery; designed in Kerala by Sreejith Jeevan for Rouka, and crafted in collaboration with numerous weaving and dying clusters.
Anoodha Kunnath and the Curiouser team once again bring this craft to life in inspiring ways. The excerpt above is from a longer film shot for Sahapedia, an online interactive encyclopedia on the arts, cultures and histories of India (and broadly South Asia). It aims to highlight the interdisciplinary and interconnected nature of cultural expression that cut across various domains.
The threads have to be strung across an open field before 8 am at least, so that they are dried by the morning breeze and warmed just enough by the tender sunlight found only at those hours. Street warping, just like everything that is done with great love and care, is painstaking; so much so that the author Sethu compares it to caring for a child.
While the rice-starch brews on wood-fire, the craftsmen roll out a spine of threads and rib them with thin sticks. They soon toil through the day brushing the warp with starch, letting them dry and then repeating it. All this looks as if a large string instrument turned up in a field and they are bustling about playing it.
After a while, the growing heat beating on their backs seem to be forgotten, as is the ache in the limbs. The craftspeople go on because the threads are only as alive as their attention. A snap is collective effort lost – of the one who cleaned the yarn, the one who dyed it , the who spun it and the one who wound it. The music must go on.
We shot this for Sahapedia over many perspective-changing mornings. This is a small excerpt, you can find the full film here . I must add that the duration of this film is only a very very small portion compared to the actual time taken for one process in this craft. Always thankful to Sojan PA for helping us through, and many thanks to Sethu Madhavan sir for sharing the Chendamangalam of his childhood and stories with us.
The entire 23 minute film can be viewed here.