BBC 2 are currently broadcasting a series called Hidden Treasures, presented by Griff Rhys Jones. He has the enviable task of travelling the globe, meeting, seeing and witnessing the creation of beautiful art & textiles created by some of the poorest people in the world. I missed Episode 1 & 2 which covered Australian Art and African Art respectively but did catch last nights viewing on Indian Art & Textiles. We were treated to a world of richly embroidered floor cloths and the wonders of resist block printing using a technique called "Mordant". My understanding is that a mordant is an agent such as alum or urine which is made into a resist paste and applied to the cloth using blocks. We were shown a process with 27 individual hand blocks each used to make up an overall geometric design, printed on both sides of a piece of cloth with each block mirroring itself. The cloth is then immersed in vegetable dye (all the dyes used have to be vegetable based) and then "washed down" to produce a stunning piece of textile. We saw the world famous indigo plant growing abundantly like a weed. A tiny delicate plant responsible for that amazing blue so loved the world over. The cloth produced is not just decorative but has multiple practical uses. The nomadic herdsmen use it as a garment and by folding it in various ways about their body, produce pockets to secrete substances such as tea, sugar and wheat as they travel. It is used as a prayer mat, a bed and worn as a "man skirt" (any takers Bob, Richard ? - I think this was called a lunghi!!).
The programme demonstrated how the textiles form an identity, a visual record of a person amongst the various villages and communities. A woman's shawl tells her storey; whether she is married and how many times, the number of children she has. She wears it open amongst family and covered in the presence of strangers and men..... no need for her to speak......1000 years of tradition, the caste system, the inter-dependant relationship between the different groups. I could go on. Really enjoyed the episode and have made a promise to myself to watch the first two episodes on BBC iplayer.
Cloth created by ordinary people, coveted and collected by people all over the world, people who have everything.
Hidden treasures. BBC 2, Friday evenings at 9.00pm
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