Naveli Choyal's Photoseries Captures The Cultural Significance Of Rajasthani Jewellery

Stills from Naveli Choyal's photoseries.
'women in fashion'Naveli Choyal

Naveli Choyal is a homegrown artist, who has roots in Ajmer but currently lives in Delhi. We caught up with her to find out more about her recent project, 'women in fashion', along with other facets of her creative practice.

Tell us a little about this project.

I grew up in Ajmer, a small town in Rajasthan, and that had its own perks for me to understand the cultural elements locally. I was surrounded by people who were still connected to their roots who had a deeper understanding and respect for the traditions, land, and people. When I moved to Delhi I realized the importance of staying connected to one’s roots. There is a sense of bonding, belonging, pride and responsibility. I can never get bored of my birthplace. It has so much to offer!

The stories that I heard and watched around craft, food, textiles, patterns, landscape, colors, people, language, beliefs, rituals, and customs are so deeply connected. I am mostly drawn towards everyday fashion and the little details it carries. For this project, I wanted to explore women’s identity through the hand-crafted ancient and traditional jewellery designs and decipher the changing meanings. Just like clothing, jewellery in Rajasthan holds a symbolic representation of caste/community/tribe, economic status, celebration, or even marital status. Some jewellery pieces also have the significance of religion and mystical beliefs.

The material used in making these pieces vary, apart from gold and silver, ivory, brass, glass, and dyed cotton threads are also widely used. Unlike today, where heavy jewellery pieces are only meant for certain events or celebrations, women in villages wear them everyday gracefully to work in fields and graze cattle. Everyday pieces like an anklet, amulet, bangle, toe ring, nose pin/ring, and finger ring are an identity marker for a married woman in the community. They are part of her ‘shringar’ and signify a new stage of her life. Recently for my research, I learned about pieces that also carry medical value, for example, a magnetic chain bracelet with colorful stones that help to controll blood pressure, which is also identical to a bangle. A basic amulet known as mandaliya locally is also worn by different communities in different styles. The designs/motifs for these pieces are often inspired by nature.

Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.

The beauty of my culture and everyday life around it inspires my work. I really love spaces with stories, history, color and light. One can easily find such spaces in almost every corner and feel inspired by it. I like to keep my process very flowy and raw and look for spaces/stories that I feel connected with.

What are some of your biggest inspirations and influences over the course of your artistic career so far?

Craft, traditions, and the stories around them. I appeciate culture and the everyday practices that sound it.

What are some things you learned while putting this project together?

I learned that jewellery having not just an ornamental value but also a deeper meaning culturally.

Who are some artists who are currently on your radar?

Thamshangpha Merci Maku from Manipur.

You can follow Naveli here.