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KHETA, an exhibition of embroidery, of the lesser known reversible quilts, hand crafted by Shershabadi women from Kishanganj district of Bihar was organised by Zameen Astar Foundation (ZAF) and Azad India Foundation (AIF) in academic partnership with Indian Institute of Art and Design (IIAD), Delhi. The exhibition of embroidered (quilt) products was held at the National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy, New Delhi from 4th March 2022 -3rd April 2022. This month-long exhibition was inaugurated by Shri Upendra Prasad Singh, Secretary- Ministry of Textiles.
Kheta has largely remained undocumented in the remote villages of Kishanganj, Zameen Astar Foundation has been instrumental in getting government, national and international attention to these most exquisite embroideries. This combined effort was made to bring this heritage art form into the limelight and provide a platform to hundreds of these women artisans to come forward and showcase their craft to the world.
The exhibition in the Textile Gallery of Crafts Museum had a live display of the crafts by Shershabadi women. It was set up in a village-like format depicting the day-to-day lives of the women and the community. Film screening/Audio visual sessions were displayed at the exhibition to give a glimpse into the life, culture and community of Shershabadi women. The designs are inspired by natural patterns and geometric motifs like flowers, flowing rivers, betel leaves, movement of earthworms, basketry and more. During the course of the month-long exhibition several workshops and Expert Talk(s) were held with educational Institutions like NIFT to impart the knowledge of the craft and its technique.
The Kheta embroidery is one of a kind quilting technique (the art of stitching layers of fabrics) that has survived the onslaught of time. Though it shares a similar origin with other recycled quilting techniques, like “Kantha” of Bengal and “Sujni” of Bihar, yet it has developed a unique and intricate characteristic of its own. In fact, Kheta is so intrinsically woven in their daily lives, that the Shershabadi women do it every day whenever they get time, in between their household chores and responsibilities. It is an art that is passed from one generation to another. Kheta is generally used as a blanket for newborn children and newly married couples. Old sarees are repurposed into quilts. The embroidery uses thread with bright colours like red, yellow and green. The geometric patterns therefore stand out against the printed fabric of the saree.
IIAD students were introduced to the Kheta craft cluster as a part of their Craft and Film making Project. They worked with the women artisans to investigate their connection between technique and expression.
Under the mentorship of Saumya Pande, Associate Professor, Fashion Design, IIAD, the students from the department worked towards documenting the craft and exploring the creation of avenues of livelihood for the Shershabadi community and conserving the craft of making Kheta.
Creation of the collaterals for the exhibition and a video on the life and work of the shershabadi women was undertaken by Communication Design students under the mentorship of Aarti Uberoi, Associate Professor Communication Design, and Anurag Dasgupta, Assistant Professor Foundation Design Dept.
For the exhibition, Interior Architecture and Design students under the guidance of Mani Sharma, Assistant Professor, Interior Architecture & Design Dept conceptualised and designed the exhibition space for Kheta at the National Crafts Museum.
The three departments collaborated together to conceptualise and showcase the work of the Shershabadi community of Kishanganj, Bihar.
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