For so many of us, our identities are intrinsically linked with our personal culture; as a way to experience life beyond the ordinary. A deep dive into the heritage of each Indian state helps us understand its people and what binds them together. This is where cultural archives play an important role in bringing the different elements of the past to future generations.
Punjab, a melting pot of both, borrowed and curated cultures, has become one of the primary states to be analyzed by researchers and students. Here are two archives that present an alluring image of the region, while retaining the lively spirit of its arts and traditions.
I. The Khes Project
A research project on the khes (cotton textile) of Punjab, The Khes Project was started by two textile design graduates from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Arjunvir Singh and Rashi Sharma, and has become a fascinating archive of the material culture of the state. Curated to ‘narrate stories of textiles and memories lost somewhere around the Radcliffe Line’, the duo have been decoding a multi-layered cultural ethos by understanding the aesthetic sensibilities of the land as well as the cultural importance of the historic weave through conversations with people who migrated from West Punjab to East Punjab during the Partition of 1947.
The documentation focuses on personal narratives and embodies a warmth beyond just being a mere study of patterns and designs. The pair locates different forms of the khes across various parts of Punjab and Haryana; studying the socio-economic contexts the craft is associated with.
II. Ahaata Project
This is an archive curated by Cocoa & Jasmine, a cultural zine, working at the intersection of arts, craft, design and travel. Their focus lies on both Punjab and the Persian influences borrowed from Iran through the course of invasions; analyzing the architecture, with insights into different periods in history that accounted for certain styles to be adopted. The archive presents a rich display of the heritage jewellery of Punjab, influenced by many different elements from the Mughal empire to Persian designers to indigenous Punjabi traditions.
With their recent Punjab Design x Craft residency program, Ahaata is focussing on the visual and material documentation of cultural crafts and designs from Punjab (India & Pakistan). The initiative plans to take the crafts of the land to a global design audience in order to present the dynamic Punjabi aesthetic seen in art, objects and even the typography (Gurmukhi).
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