South Asian Artists Are Using Textiles To Sculpt Narratives Of History & Identity

Sculptures by Ruby Chishti & Mrinalini Mukherjee
Sculptures by Ruby Chishti & Mrinalini MukherjeeTwelve Gates Arts, Financial Times

One of the oldest art forms in history, textile art which encompasses weavings, embroideries, tapestries, fiber arts, carpet design, and more has undergone a renaissance over the past century, as artists have pushed the boundaries of what can be considered a textile, as well as how a textile can be considered art. Using the strength and softness of fabrics to sculpt narratives, here are 5 South Asian textile artists that redefined the genre.

Family portrait, I'm cocooning
Family portrait, I'm cocooningShraddha Kochhar

Shraddha Kochhar

Textile artist, knitwear designer and founder of the independent studio LOTA, Shraddha's body of work is her attempt to write an autobiographical fictional essay where she tries to blur time through objects made from referencing intergenerational narratives, in an attempt to rewrite history. Using hand-spun khadi, she makes textiles as she reflects on the ways in which history and memory, invisibility and the effects of politics, space, symbolism, stereotypes and gazes interact.

Follow her here.


Chathuri Nissansala

A multidisciplinary artist from Sri Lanka and currently practicing in Colombo, Chathuri creates art that raises poignant questions about notions of gender, class and nationalism in Sri Lanka. As a second-generation civilian and a witness to the civil war and its impact on contemporary politics and social culture, her multidisciplinary practice also questions the subjects of nationalism, patriarchy, and religion in the country.

Follow her here.

Phenomenal Nature
Phenomenal NatureMrinalini Mukherjee

Mrinalini Mukherjee

A committed sculptor known for her distinctly contemporary style and use of dyed and woven hemp fibre, Mrinalini explored the divide between figuration and abstraction. Nature was her primary inspiration, and she was further informed by her enthusiasm for Indian historic sculpture, modern design, and local crafts and textile traditions. Through large, totemic figures and organic forms, the artist prioritised the chaos and unsettling aspects of the natural world while remaining grounded in the tenets of classical sculpture, such as balance, volume and symmetry.

Check out her work here.

Blemishes of times II, We Leave, We Never Leave, We Return Endlessly
Blemishes of times II, We Leave, We Never Leave, We Return EndlesslyRuby Chishti

Ruby Chishti

Over the last 20 years, Ruby Chishti has produced a series of lyrical sculptures and installations that touch on tenacity and fragility of human existence, migration, Islamic myths, gender politics, memory, universal theme of love, loss and of being human. Poised at the meeting point of personal reflection, family history, memory, and the anxieties that beset the world, Ruby's fabric sculptures become the external manifestations of the internal processes of remembrance, perception and recall.

Follow her work here.

In continuum, Shelter (for the craftsmen)
In continuum, Shelter (for the craftsmen)Rakhi Peswani

Rakhi Peswani

Rakhi looks closely at nature to re-see her own self. “Sometimes I feel I’m neither a woman nor a man, I am an animal,” says the artist, driven by primal instincts in her creativity. Combining her love for drawing, painting and large-scale sculpture, Peswani works intimately with materials such as jute fibre, waste cotton and natural pigments to create forms that reflect a powerfully expressive inner world fuelled by instinct and emotion. 

Follow her here.