This short film documents artist Shelly Jyoti’s process of working with master ajrakh craftsmen in Ajrakhpur, Bhuj, Gujarat to make new textile works for her 2023 exhibition Indigo: The Blue Gold at the South Asia Institute in Chicago, IL. The exhibition looks at indigo’s long history from several perspectives, including global trade, forced labor, slavery, and indentured labor, migration, and colonization in terms of India’s colonial history and uses recurring iconographic symbols of Gandhi’s spinning wheel, indigo plants, globes, and ships to tell the story of indigo.
Charkha-The Wheels of ‘Svavalamban’ Shilp Deergha Gallery
New Parliament House, 118 Rafi Marg, New Delhi, India
This installation is a triptych titled, ‘Charkha -The Wheels of Svavalamban.’was installed in Shilp Deergha Gallery in the new parliament building at New Delhi on May 28, 2023.
These works were created by artist Shelly Jyoti in collaboration with Ajrakh craftsmen, embroiders from Delhi on the theme of charkha (spinning wheel) symbolising unity, freedom, and self-sufficiency, reminding us of the Swadeshi Movement during India’s freedom struggle, when it stood for making our own products. This video gives the process of these artworks in making at Ajrakhpur, Bhuj, Gujarat and artists studio in Gurgaon, Haryana
Spinning wheel is used as an iconography for Svavalamban or self-reliance. Charkha connects our past with the present, spinning the threads of India’s long and complex history, standing for all the ideals and aspirations of a free nation.
Artworks commissioned by Founder/ President of Dastkari Haat Samiti : Smt Jaya Jaitley
Craftsmen and skilled workers
Juned Ismail Khatri (Master Craftsman) Ajrakhpur, Bhuj
Peer Mohamed, Hussain Afroz (Ajrakhpur, Gujarat)-Ajrakh Artisans
Malti Das (Kaligunj, Krishnanagar, Bengal)-Hand Needle work
Zameer Ansari, Nazrul, Saukat (Krishna market, old Gurgaon, Haryana)
Special thanks to all:
Voice Over(female): Artist and poet Shelly Jyoti
Voice Over(male): Dishant Narang
Recording studio: Pindrop Studio
Voice recordist Pankaj Sharma
Video editor : Guneet Singh Gulati
Photography & Videography: Ridham D Chhatrala, Bhuj, Gujarat.
This video is funded by GoodEarth: India’s leading luxury brand Design house www. Goodearth.in
Shelly Jyoti – Indigo: The “Blue Gold”
From plantation, trade, to migration, forced labor, and colonization
South Asia Institute
July 22-December 16, 2023
Curated by Laura Kina
Private opening reception: Friday July 21, 2023
1925 S. Michigan
Chicago, IL 60616
“swavlamban’ series can be viewed at Shilp Deergha Gallery in the new Parliamant House
TRIPTYCH OF BLOCK-PRINTED AJRAKH ON HANDSPUN KHADI TO CELEBRATE THE CHARKHA, AND WHAT IT STANDS FOR
Irrespective of the developments by machines and mills in the last century, the survival of block printed textiles is closely tied to the spirit of s
elf-sufficiency. Still practised in parts of Gujarat, particularly Ajrakhpur in the city of Bhuj (Gujarat) and Rajasthan, and Sindh in Pakistan. Ajrakh is
a unique reverse block-printing technique with natural dyes in which designated areas in the pattern are pre-treated to resist penetration by the dye.
The word, Ajrakh, is derived from the phrase, “aaj ke din rakh” or “keep it for today”, alluding to the traditional process of preparing the fabric for printing. At every stage of the tedious dying process, the fabric is set aside to dry for 3-4 days. Nature plays an important role in the making of Ajrakh. Craftsmen work in harmony with their environment where the sun, river, animals, trees, and mud, are all part of the creative process. Ajrakh prints are predominantly geometrical in combinations of blue, red, white, and black. Ajrakh textile traditions involve 20 odd steps — which include pre-soaking the cloth in a mix of camel dung, soda ash, and castor oil; mixing the dye-resistant pastes from gum and millet flour; and blending secondary dyes from an array of natural sources: yellow from turmeric, brown from rhubarb, orange from pomegranate skin, red from madder root, and black from a boiled syrup of scrap iron, chickpea flour, and sugarcane molasses. Ajrakh printers are largely based in Dhamadka and Ajrakhpur. The latter is a village created in the wake of the massive earthquake that destroyed hundreds of homes in Kutch in January, 2001. It was established with the collaboration of private institutions, the state government of Gujarat, and the villagers themselves. Eventually, they also organised a short road to the village, electricity, a complex of houses, printing establishments for block printers, and even an effluent plant to avoid contamination of local water sources and fields with dyestuffs.
Today, with its proud new name of Ajrakhpur, honouring the traditional craft of block printing in word and spirit, the village is abuzz with activity, tourists, and pride. The natural dyeing of Ajrakh textiles was revived here by the late patriarch of the village’s most famous family, Khatri Mohammadbhai Siddiqbhai. The third generation of the family are now masters of the art, and the entire clan is eminently well-known nationally and internationally for its skills and talent in evolving a large variety of colours in natural dyeing. They work with highly renowned designers from India and abroad to produce masterpieces in textile art. This installation is a triptych titled, ‘Charkha — the Wheels of Svavalamban.’
The charkha (spinning wheel) symbolises unity, freedom, and self-sufficiency, reminding us of the Swadeshi Movement during India’s freedom struggle, when it stood for making our own products. The idea of creating two charkhas reflects the diversity of people, as a collective whole, strengthening the concept of Svavalamban. These artworks were created in the resist technique with lime, gum, rusted iron, tamarind powder, white clay, alum, alizarin, and powdered dhavedi flower. Wooden blocks used in the artworks belong to 300 to 400-year-old patterns that the craftspeople refer to as kungari, atthas, aery border, fustat gurda kaleji, leheriya, and patri. A symbol of Svavalamban or self-reliance, the charkha connects our past with the present, spinning the threads of India’s long and complex history, standing for all the ideals and aspirations of a free nation.
The artist Shelly Jyoti has created these triptych artworks on 100 gm of hand spun, handwoven khadi in collaboration with Ajrakh
artisans, and embroiders- The works feature different charkhas, printed in traditional Ajrakh style, and embellished with tiny mirrors and zari work. The artist has evoked the sentiment, to remind us that our freedom was hard won, and that it can be protected and preserved only through self-reliance.
These works can be viewed in Shilp Deergha Gallery inside the ground floor galleries of New Parliament building.The concept and the work of Shilp Deergha gallery was visualised by Smt. Jaya Jaitley ji, founder/president of Daastkar Haat Samiti along with many designers and crafts people.
Artworks for The New Parliament House 2023
It’s indeed very humbling and a great honour to get this opportunity!
These works can be viewed at Shilp Deergha Gallery on the Ground floor sections of the new Parliament house at New Delhi The concept and the work of Shilp Deergha gallery was visualised by Smt. Jaya Jaitley ji along with many designers and crafts people. The Shilp Gallery houses eight thematic installations — Gyan, Prakriti, Swavlamban, Aastha, Ullas, Parv, Samrasta, and Yatra. Collectively, these works pay tribute to our rich art and craft legacy in collaboration with over 300 artists and artisans from all over the country.
I was commissioned to create these artworks on the theme swavlambhan by Smt Jaya Jailtly founder/ president of Dastkari Haat Samiti. These works in the new Parliament House depict the theme of svavlambhan (self reliance).This installation is a triptych titled, ‘Charkha — the Wheels of Svavalamban.’
Created on hand-spun, handwoven khadi – they feature different charkhas, printed in traditional Ajrakh style, and embellished with tiny mirrors and zardozi work. The charkha (spinning wheel) symbolises unity, freedom, and self-sufficiency, reminding us of the Swadeshi Movement during India’s freedom struggle, when it stood for making our own products. The idea of creating two charkhas reflects the diversity of people, as a collective whole, strengthening the concept of Svavalamban. In collaboration with my ajrakh craftsmen Juned Khatri and embroiders, I tried to evoke the sentiment, to remind us that our freedom was hard won, and that it can be protected and preserved through self-reliance.