Tribal Truck’r is a collection of clothing that I created in India to identify myself by, while exploring ideas of nomadic identity. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have been identified as a gypsy. The history and concepts associated with such an identity brought me to India in search of the tribal group known as the Banjara. I designed my costume with overlapping influences of: Indian trucks and the Banjara – both known professionally as goods carriers. The concept of a goods carrier further suited my investigation into nomadic identity by thinking of myself as my own goods carrier.
As is customary with the traditions of Indian tribal groups, I wore block-printed, vegetable-dyed fabric that denoted my (self-identified) group. This truck themed fabric of my design was created by Ajrak artisans in Barmeer, Rajasthan. The bright color seen throughout the skirt is hand-embroidery which I have worked on for three years and continue to do so. The waistband of the skirt was further embroidered with truck themed imagery and was created from an old Banjara piece whose embroidered circles originally held mirrors.
After having found a home within a Banjara community, I spent my days embroidering with small groups of women. In addition to the skirt, I simultaneously worked on an old Banjara choli, adding my own embroidery and decorations. This piece today is also a work in progress.
The embroidered ghagra (skirt) and choli (top), featured in the above images, constituted my ‘fancier’ costume. As for what I wore on a daily basis: I had a second skirt, also made from ‘truck’ printed fabric but with no embroidery, some small blouses, and the vest and jacket featured below. The fabric used for both these garments, as well as for parts of the simpler skirt, was created from a quilt using recycled cotton sarees layered together with running stitches. The embroidery continues to follow the self-identifying truck theme. These two pieces are works in progress, as the embroidery continues.
The research for this work was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. As this continues to be a work in progress, the collection has not yet been exhibitted.