The artists of Kutch, Gujarat, have woven their way from villages to the luxury market. One non-profit organisation, Shrujan:Threads of Life has become a major catalyst for them. By Rashima Nagpal
After a long drive from Ahmedabad to Kutch, the car halted in front of a big bungalow painted in warm mustard. I was at Shrujan: Threads of Life, a non-profit organisation that works towards the sustenance of Kutch heritage and art. I stepped out to my beaming host waiting to welcome me with tilak and flowers.Afterwards, I was taken on a tour of the property.
A number of portraits of Chanda Shroff, the founder, hang on the walls around the house. Fondly referred to as Chandaben, she is heralded as the woman who turned things around for the Kutchi people with her initiative to bring into spotlight their remarkable embroidery skills. In 1969, she carried 30 hand-embroidered saris made by these artisans, straight to an exhibition in Mumbai and almost immediately, the long-kept secret of Kutch landed big in the commercial space. Today, the likes of Nita Ambani and Kirron Kher are seen wearing their creations.
Chandaben comes up in conversations almost naturally for her exceptional body of work.After her death last year, the responsibility of taking Shrujan forward shifted to her daughter, Ami Shroff. The organisation has, since its inception, been a strong link between the artisan communities in Kutch and their urban consumers. As an extension to the non-profit, the Living and Learning Design Centre (LLDC) located at a few minutes from Shrujan, is India’s biggest craft museum, set up to ensure that the unique artisan traditions are preserved.
This is a living museum, which means that the artefacts on display are created by presentday craftsmen and the collections are frequently changed. LLDC also features a Hands-on Gallery, where you can take a crash course in the Ajrakh printing technique. At both Shrujan and LLDC, the tireless efforts to bring the Kutch heritage to the world is evident and the beauty of every artistic expression, self-explanatory.
- Find the ‘Tropic of Cancer is Passing Through Here’ signboard near Bhuj.
- Experience the sunset in the Rann of Kutch, the largest salt desert in the world.
- Visit the Sumarasar village to watch women weaving intricate embroideries.
- Buy beautiful Ajrakh fabrics at Dr Ismael Mohmed Khatri’s workshop in Ajrakhpur village.