JAN - MAR 2011
Handmade for India
VOL 1 ISSUE 6
Waste Art for a living
Dakshayini Gowda runs a travelling museum which aims at
educating rural children, an initiative she conceived of during her
journeys to Kutch as a research student. She felt that the kids of
these village craftsmen who still made pots and decorative
beads, and block printed textiles using techniques that harked
back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, could do with some exposure.
The problem she came up against while planning this museum
was, no points for guessing, funding. As somebody who did not
want to wait for donors or grants, she thought of a creative way to
cross-fund the museum, empower rural women and recycle old
fabric all at one go. Gowda employed five rural women and
started to train them to make hand make jewellery from excess
material lying waste on the floor of a tailor shop. Every piece
became a work of art.
In her workshop at Gownipalli, a village hundred kilometres from
Bangalore, women gather to brainstorm on design, learn new
skills, and develop their collective business venture. Even women
who can’t leave their homes due to societal pressures can
participate as Gowda visits their homes to train them and pick up
ready products. The women are currently learning embroidery to
facilitate product line expansion while also developing ready to
wear garments and bed linen. They earn upwards of three
thousand rupees a month, a win-win both for income and creative
From Dakshayini’s Indus Valley museum collection
Lend an ear to fashion out of scrap! :
TIME OUT Delhi - Feb 2011
featured Sanchali jewelry displayed at a store called O LAYLA in Hauz Khas village, New delhi
An article in FEMINA sept 8th issue
Sanchali article in Vogue india by Aparna Das Sadhukhan
Holly n sally are hippy by heart and thinks fashion is art!
"Once Upon A Tea Time...Design Stories" is a design and lifestyle blog. http://onceuponateatime.blogspot.com/2010/06/creative-profile-dakshayini-gowda.html
The Hindu- news paper
This was truly inspiring http://www.clevernesting.com/2009/04/reusing-fabric-scraps-for-jewelry/
Online press review http://bangalore.metromela.com/reviews/displayReview/3727/What
this one is from a magazine called 'mindfields' a journal about ideas and learning http://www.mindfields.in/index.htm
Of Living, Hands-On Museums
'mindfields' magazine article on sanchali by Amruta Patil
http://www.mindfields.in/index.htm a journal about ideas and alternative education
Growing up, Dakshayini Gowda wasn’t a big one for the school trip to the city museum. She got the gist of the idea, of course – museums were a treasure house of stories, museums were a peep into bygone eras. It didn’t help that you had to peep into bygone eras through fogged-over display cases, or across a barricade. Or that the khaki-clad guard’s constant refrains were, “Too Close!” and “Don’t Touch!”.
The thought stayed with her through the years – that it would be wonderful to have a museum that wasn’t dead, a place where have to keep your distance from exhibits that were trying to talk to you! It was the genesis of the idea that would be Sanchali.
The Birth of Sanchali
“Our family is originally from a village near Bangalore. Farming has been our family’s occupation and still is. My family moved to the city for our education, but we still have a strong connections with the village to our house there. As a child, I loved going to the village because of the natural setting, and for its simple and loving people, and fascinating crafts. I remember watching my grandmother make little dolls from scraps of cloth, or flowers out of dried seeds. She was never trained but was so creative and skillful.” recalls Dakshayini. The affinity with villages and with indigenous crafts was to continue. “I never missed a chance to get onto a train and wander off to faraway places – to explore, see how people live, how they work.”
Parental aspirations of having her study dentistry were kept aside when the family realized that Dakshayini’s heart lay elsewhere. She enrolled at Chitrakala Parishat and got a Bachelor’s degree in sculpture. “As a sculptor, my interest in craft was further strengthened.” She went on to spend four years at the renowned MS University, Baroda – and in 2003, completed her Masters degree in Museology and Archaeology.
The latter was to have a profound impact on Dakshayini’s course. The archaeology course piqued her interest in the Indus Valley civilization, for one. “Art and craft of a culture can tell you so much about the lifestyle of a people. It can tell you about their prosperity, their trade and economy – even when no written record the era exists. The artifacts they made (during the Indus Valley Civilization) even with such limited technology are truly fascinating.” Dakshayini started traveling ardently to villages and excavation sites all over Gujarat – places where some of the oldest artforms had manage to survive across centuries. She talked to people, assimilated the environs, learnt techniques – sculpture, bead making, and fabric dyeing.
When her course was over, Daksha found that she was no longer had a dilemma about what to do next. “The 'now what?' question was gone. The idea of Sanchali came to me almost immediately – a project that could combine travel, fine art, museology, archaeology, and myriad life experiences. It added up perfectly.
During the years she spent working a designer (including stints at the Centre for Vernacular Architecture, Bangalore; and Upasana Design Studio, a design studio in Auroville) Dakshayini incubated the idea until she was ready with the clarity and confidence required to start the movement. (‘Sanchali’ is the Sanskrit word for ‘movement’) A movement that would attempt to revive traditional art forms, and shatter the stuffy image of museum-learning. A lively and interactive format would extend the exhibition’s appeal across age groups. “Think of it as a traveling exhibition based on the historic arts and crafts from various periods – starting with the Indus Valley Civilization,’ says Dakshayini. “There will be craftsmen demonstrating the arts, guest-speakers talking about related themes, guided tours engaging school children and older visitors.”
The uniqueness of this exhibition will be its amalgam of workshop-format with a museum-like approach and presentation - period-inspired artifact replicas, tagged with educational write-ups, informative photographs, and eye-pleasing display. “Unlike in a museum, the exhibition will allow viewers to actually touch and engage with the artificial artifacts,’ shares Dakshayini, with obvious delight. In non-school settings, there will be a ‘museum store’ selling Dakshayini’s recreations of artifacts and souvenirs. Each piece will be accompanied by an informative note discussing its historical significance.
Dakshayini has been training women from Varanasi and Karnataka villages to make hand-crafted jewelry of innovative designs and material – as part of Sanchali’s women empowerment project.
Museum for each School
As with most audacious, enterprising ideas – the journey promises to be an arduous one. Funds were (and are) a constant challenge and Dakshayini began Sanchali with her meager savings, and the goodwill of friends and family. Support is beginning to trickle in. “An exhibition at the Canadian International School art week had an encouraging response. Since then, I have had exhibitions with various rural schools nearby,’ says Dakshayini, adding that she is confident that the idea will catch on with schools.
In planning her sessions, Dakshayini draws inspiration from far and wide - lives of people, travel books, period dramas, and “treasure-hunt kind of movies”. But if taken a step to improve learning by lot of interactive programs then it could be made interesting and where students do not have to make an extra effort to remember stuff. History books, books on Indian crafts, travel books. Period inspired movies, treasure hunt kind of movies, archaeology related programs.
Working with schools, Sanchali hopes to counter the lopsided importance most schools accord to, say, Math or Science. It aims to make History – a subject perceived as boring and stuffy – less top-heavy, less bogged down by dates and names of dead people. Sanchali hopes to bring about an effortless confluence of history and art. While in the workshops, children are not expected to make carbon copies of existing artifacts. The objective is to have the children understand the rationale behind choice of medium, technique, imagery and symbology used by the people of the era – and then translates it into their own work. “So there won’t be thirty Dancing Girls and thirty Bearded Man replicas!” laughs Dakshayini. And once the workshop sessions is over, the artifacts the kids create can go into creating a museum in the classroom or school gallery. There could be different ‘permanent collections’ based on different historical eras or cultures. “When learning is inherently interesting,’ Dakshayini concludes, ‘children understand and remember things effortlessly.”
ByRashmi Chidanand Surya,USA
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is the best way to describe how Dakshayini Gowda’s Sanchali vision came to life. Daksha, an artist and advocate of Sanchali, had graduated from Chitrakala Parishat in Bangalore with a B.A. in Fine Arts, and was at a fork point in her life’s journey: one worn-out road led her to graduate school at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, where she successfully earned her M.A. in Archeology and Museology; and, another road, the one less taken by fine arts graduates, led her to the creation of Sanchali Exhibitions. However, both roads were edifying life experiences. Her archeology excavations brought textbook history lessons to life while her museology studies revealed the limited, in-the-box, yawn-inducing aspects of museums.
Her post-graduate endeavors involved numerous traveling exertions to remote villages, where she learned regional and ancestral arts and crafts overshadowed by westernization. These rural visits also sparked another idea involving eco-friendly jewelry made by rural woman. Handed down for many generations without any training, Indian grandmothers have creatively conjured up designs and crafts out of everyday excess scrap materials. A lost tradition in today’s world of recycling plastics and other man-made wastes, salvaging natural remnants from like a tree bark shed during seasonal changes as a source of artistic medium, is a dying trade. Not only saving artisans a trip to the market for art supplies, but also these mother-earth provisions are readily available at no cost at all. Inspired by this novel system of waste management founded by our grandmothers, Dakshayini wanted to revive this dying tradition lost to modernization as well as encourage art novices and connoisseurs to draw upon their proclivity for nature.
All these discoveries and insights led to Ms. Gowda’s “ah-HA” moment : how can one breathe life into learning about India’s forgotten history and fading arts, while still promoting the importance of visiting museums? By starting a movement called ‘Sanchali’ to mass-educate the public in a fun and unforgettable way.
Sanchali, meaning “movement” in Sanskrit, is an attempt to revive traditional Indian art forms as well as shatter the “stuffy” image of museum-learning with its lively and interactive setup to attract even the younger generations. The project is based on the historic arts and crafts from various periods displayed in a traveling exhibition format, starting with the Indus River Valley civilization.
The uniqueness of this exhibition is its museum-like approach and presentation of all the period-inspired artifact replicas (not carbon copies) tagged with educational write-ups, informative photographs, and eye-pleasing displays found at bona fide museums. For a more hands-on experience, there are craftsmen demonstrating the arts, professors and guest-speakers lecturing on the subject matters, and guided tours engaging school children and visitors alike. Unlike in a museum, the exhibition allows viewers to actually touch and engage with the artificial +“museum store” selling my recreations of artifacts and souvenirs, which include either an informative note or a booklet discussing its historical contribution.
The exhibition itself is focused on the revival of historic artifacts in terms of the techniques utilized in creating these objects while giving it a contemporary twist to appeal to modern audiences. Ultimately, Dakshayini’s desire is to share her passion for educating people on art’s influence in history as well as encourage them to visit their local museums for further learning and research on the topics she will be presenting at each exhibition. Currently, Ms. Gowda has also trained women from Varanasi and Karnataka villages in creating artless jewelry, and aspires to train more rural women all over India as part of the women empowerment project being pioneered by Sanchali.
By taking the road less traveled by, her artistic ambition is paving the way to leaving lasting footprints in the roads taken by plebeians and that has made all the difference in Dakshayini’s Sanchali.