Textiles and women have an intricate relationship. Growing up in a middle class family in the 80's in India, I saw my mother, grandmother and aunts spend their free time embroidering, knitting, crocheting, and working with textiles to make clothes, quilts, bedspreads, handkerchiefs, items of household decoration that we used in our daily lives and also gifts that would be given at the birth of a child and as part of dowry at the time of marriage of a female family member.
I have absorbed this relationship with textiles and my work is a manifestation of it.
In 2014, I started a design project where I worked with craftswomen to make earth friendly bags using handmade fabrics in India. As the design project evolved, I became conscious of the amount of scrap fabric that was being generated in my studio. I started collecting all the scrap fabric with the intention of upcycling it into designs for the bags.
In 2017, while I was studying at California Institute of the Arts, I took the PostColonial Critique class. The readings for this class made me conscious of my postcolonial identity. I became aware of my distance from Indian literature and culture as my entire education had been in schools where the medium of instruction was English. I noticed that I easily moved between two worlds- my hindi speaking Indian family and my english speaking colleagues of the western world.
This inspired me to shift the materials of my work in order to claim my identity. I replaced canvas with Khadi as the base of my paintings. Khadi, a simple hand spun cloth, played an important role in India's struggle for freedom. Khadi was an initiative of Gandhi to resist the oppressive and exploitative British rule who were using India as a market. He urged Indians to spin their own cloth in order to make India self-reliant in the manufacture of cloth, an alternative to the imposition of machine-made fabric from the British Mills.
I make paintings on khadi with scrap fabric that I have collected in my studio over the years. I usually sew and stitch small pieces of scrap fabric in repetitive patterns to make large textile works. I also embroider khadi to make textile paintings. I am drawn to hand work like stitching and embroidery as it is a signifier for domestic work but at the same time it also provides women with a set of skills that can be used for self empowerment.
The process of making these textile works is very labor intensive. I employ women from low income backgrounds near my home in Delhi to assist me in making them in my studio. As these women assist in my studio, stitching and embroidering together means not only employment but also empowerment and financial independence.
Coming from a country where a lot of work needs to be done and living in Delhi where I see an ever increasing numbers of migrants from villages coming in search of job opportunities, living in poor conditions on streets at times with their families, I feel motivated to develop my art practice into a social art project. I want to work with women from low income backgrounds to provide not only employment through my art practice but also a space for affirmation of their skills. As a woman myself, I understand that it is important for women to be financially independent. This financial freedom, from husbands and fathers, guarantees empowerment and participation not only in personal life but also socio-political matters as they begin to see themselves as equals and individuals.