Auntie Oti searches India for domestic articles essential to the everyday life of this rich and multi-cultural society. Ordinary consumer items are often produced on a local level. This results in commodities that differ not only region to region, but also village to village. Many goods are made at home on a lone loom and each piece is personified by the individual hand of a skilled artisan. While no two lots are alike, each is beautiful in its unique way.
Among these products is khadi : fabric woven by hand from hand-spun yarn. Before the industrial revolution khadi was produced in India for centuries. The practice was revived by M.K. Gandhi in the 1920’s in his pursuit of rural self-reliance. Indians asserted their economic independence over Great Britain by spinning, weaving, and wearing their own cloth. The iconic image of Gandhi wearing a simple dhoti working patiently at his spinning wheel exemplifies the quiet beauty found in khadi textiles. Practiced today, this slow community based method defies the generic mass produced products consumed today.
Each piece can delight in its own singular way. Humble and practical items are often multi-purposed in their functions. A gent’s woolen shawl becomes an impromptu blanket. The utilitarian gamcha is a towel, a neck scarf, or a head wrap to keep the sun out. Unadorned simplicity and versatility is why they continue to endure in the pragmatic culture of India today. A seemingly infinite variety exists within a single category. Plain weave towels with their ever-changing borders, patterns, sizes and color combinations still serve the simple purpose of drying oneself after a bath or doing the dishes after dinner. Even mill woven and machine made goods differ according to the nuances of time, the availability of materials and the area where they are made. All are beautiful.
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