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Seeking a magical Jamdani



The more I visited India, the more interested in Indian textiles and its deep history. Kantha, Khadi, Bandani, Ahir embroidery, Block prints, there are many kinds of textiles that I liked but I was most fascinated by Jamdani. Jamdani is a textile made from one of finest and thinnest thread with traditional geometric or floral patterns woven on it. It flourished around in 17th century, Mughal dynasty in West Bengal.
It is said that successive kings compared their beauty of Jamdani costumes.

Going back to my story, to learn more about Jamdani, I started to contact with my family to ask them to support my research and meanwhile I could get touch with Ruby di who established West Bengal art craft council in Kolkata. She is over 80 years old and has been devoting her life to support the traditional art crafts and artisans. She told me “ This girl came here all the way from Japan, I would like to show you how Jamdani is made in fact.” Everything went off without a hitch, after 2 days, I was sitting on the back seat of Van bound for Villages.

Seeking a magical Jamdan

While we were driving down the street, the scene from the window changed from millions of people and tracks to the peaceful rural landscape. We could see open green farm called hydroponics one after another and was equally lined with banana trees. Coriander and Mustard flowers were blooming.
After driving 3 hours, we finally could reach a small village. Walking down the rural narrow street after getting off the van, we heard rhythmical sound of wood bumps. In artisan’s garden, there was a wooden hut, his family were working on weaving in there. His mother was spinning a thread under the sunshine. They were experts for their own role. He kindly told me the difference of cotton and Kadhi (hand spun thread) using a magnifying glass, I learned different type of threads, like Mugal silk, Linen etc. We can’t figure out the difference of fabric when we see them but we can distinguish through magnifying glass.
After that, we visited a female weaver who has an excellent skill for Jamdani. She was weaving beautiful triangle motif Jamdani with beautiful sounds like an old clock sliding her hands and pushing legs one after another, in her house balcony. When fine embroidery appears one by one after her fingers moves, I was totally speechless.

Seeking a magical Jamdan

India has a same problem with Japan that many kinds of traditional art crafts are on the verge of extinction. Most of people choose easier and cheaper mass production clothing and the speed of westernization is surprisingly rapid.
“I would like to empower such artisans and art crafts who are marginalized from commercialized world.” this sounds a bit heroic but we have to clarify endless questions should be discussed. Should I customize the design from what they have or bring colors and design raw to Japan? How can we enjoy traditional garment in our daily life? But still I am dreaming of producing these beautiful Jamdani with such lovely friendly artisans in India.

(Written by Chiaki)