This work was inspired by time spent embroidering with a group of Banjara-Lambhani women in Karnataka, India. It was only the women and usually only the older generation who continued, against popular trend, to wear the traditional head to toe costume: mirror embroidered choli & ghagra, the tribal jewelry, a certain hairstyle, and tattoos most commonly found on their inner arms. The portraits of these women were created as a way to record and celebrate the traditional tribal identity that is disappearing.
The mirror embroidered sections in the work are from deconstructed Banjara skirts and represent a signature element of their cultural identity. The small faux buttons decorating the portraits are unique to the Banjara as a contemporary embellishment that they use on their traditional dress. The black embroidery designs (shown in the photo details) are created from my interest in their tattoos. The pen & watercolor sketches used for the portraits have been laser printed onto fabric woven in southern India. Throughout the background of each piece are small running stitches producing a textured surface and an animated like impression of human skin.
This work was exhibited at the Flatrocks Gallery in Gloucester, MA in 2012.
The research for this work was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.