The Registry of Sarees bears custodianship of two collections with the principal objective of making them publicly accessible for research and study to enhance and support field work.

  1. Meanings, Metaphor – Handspun and Handwoven in the 21stcentury ( formerly Khadi – The Fabric of Freedom)
  2. Textiles of India (Coming soon)

To this end three iterations of Meanings, Metaphor were held between November 2018 and April 2019 at Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and Bangalore, Karnataka.

Context of Meanings, Metaphor – Handspun, Handwoven in the 21st Century

Originally known as Khadi – The Fabric of Freedom, the current collection was curated by Mr Martand Singh with the support of the Volkart Foundation to “ honour the past. But it also wants to be a promise for the future.” (Andreas Reinhart, the Volkart Foundation).

These exhibitions were developed within a broader set of initiatives involving textile experts Rahul Jain, Rta Kapur Chishti and Rakesh Thakore, and involved a study of the many cultures and technologies of cotton cultivation in India. Evoking reflections on its near and far histories, they further raised questions about the relevance of handspun and handwoven cotton fabric, qualities of which remain unique to the Indian subcontinent even today.

Almost two decades later, what does such cloth mean to us? How does it inform the aesthetics of our everyday life? And what is its place in the world? Against the background of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year - whose Call for Khadi led the Indian freedom movement - it may be time for us to ask about the legacy of his ideas for non-violence, ahimsa. To explore the relationship between Khadi and the changing values of the country. And perhaps, to think about the ways in which innovation in handmade textiles continues to define an ethos for Indian as well as international contemporary art and design.

Keeping this at the heart of the three exhibitions held between 2018 and 2019, the exhibition was renamed to bring it to relevance in India today. The curator Mayank Mansingh Kaul, specifically led the project to present three different formats with three different message:

  1. At Chirala, 24 pieces were presented to over 4000 weavers from across India and South East Asia who were present at a week-long conference. The conference was the first ever conducted in the modern history of our country. The objective was to enable and further hand spinning and handloom weaving amongst different communities in the country today. This has directly impacted the work that The Registry of Sarees is involved with vis-à-vis research, design and development in the area of hand spinning. The collection is now visited regularly by weavers who come to study and then further their own work in hand spinning.
  2. At Coimbatore, 108 pieces were presented at The Lakshmi Mills – once the heart of the industrial cotton industry . Over 6000 visitors were actively engaged through a series of talks and workshops ( held by spinners and weavers and academicians) from Chirala. The collection became the link through which the relevance of the short staple, indigenous cotton was examined in the light of hand spinning and weaving in India today. Fourteen textile engineering colleges who visited have since become sensitive to forming syllabi around both the technical and field oriented aspects of the collection.
  3. At Bangalore, 54 pieces were presented with the objective of engaging urban audiences to respond to sustainable and environmental and social issues using the design aspect of the collection. This has led to several projects of collaboration, through spinners, weavers, people who work in different aspects of textile design.