Monday, July 01, 2013

Sujuni- Fabric craft of colors and story-telling

Sujuni is a distant cousin of Kantha stitch, in the sense just like Kantha it involves a cluster of running stitches. Though they developed in close corners but over the course of time have emerged into two distinct crafts. Kantha is characterized more by its radiating patterns while sujuni usually flows in soft curvilinear lines emulating the meandering edges of the fields which are often the walking paths in the villages as well.

It was traditional developed in homes where women would layer up old worn out cotton saris and then sew them together with vibrant colored threads usually pulled from the contrasting borders of the sari's edges.  Layers of cotton fabric were sewn together mostly through running stitch and occasionally embellished with chain stitches. Old Bihari sujuni's depicted religious themes as well as geometric patterns. It was a means of expression and showed local flora and fauna along with everyday life. Of course such depictions made them ideal gifts for births and marriages, and keepsakes for the family members.

A typical sujuni is made with about a hundred stitches per inch. And for me personally they reminded me of pointillism style of painting. Running stitches of various colors in close proximity plays with the mind and give the impression of various shades of colors where none exists, the parallax of duality between reality and illusions.

Meet Savitri ji. She is a Sujuni artist and supports herself through this art and her style is refreshing and tells stories close to heart. All the other women in the village tease her that none of her embroideries is complete without a drop of her blood and so it is really easy to tell apart her work from the others in the cooperative.

DH posted this picture of us on Facebook and I got a lot of comments about the sujuni hanging in the background and so I decided to talk about it here. This sujini depicts the deforestation problem and its impacts on the villages where life flourishes very close to nature. And guess who is the artist who created this piece, yes its Savitri ji; and knowing the artist and the inspiration behind the piece brings special meaning to the art and to my home where it hangs.

There are others who treasure the art just as much and so there has been efforts to revive it and make it accessible to the buddhist tourist who visit Nalanda and its vicinity. Scenes from the life of Buddha that are relevant to the area are depicted through colorful threads running through stitches keeping a tradition alive and retell the stories from the past.

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