The Saree Festival:
The endless swirl of beauty
A classical drape, endlessly evolving, ravenously reinterpreted, feted in fashion circles, and yet, very much also a part of our everyday lives, the Saree is the life breath of India. The Saree Festival attempts to create an ongoing tribute to this most wondrous, most amoebic pahnawa, the warp and weft of which has kept traditions as well as movement alive.
The festival presents an exposition of Sarees created in diverse media and styles, using diverse techniques and artistic vocabularies. Platforms which foreground the Saree tend to focus on either one of its styles: traditional, or contemporary. Various Saree exhibitions and showings signal an engagement with the vast diversity of traditional Sarees created by weavers from different parts of India, also featuring interventions in this genre by contemporary designers. Much in contrast to this “traditional” approach, at the other end of the Saree spectrum is the reinterpretations of the Saree at a structural /formal level by contemporary designers trained in the discipline of fashion. A third stream of the Saree universe brings us to a new idiom – a language of digital print and graphics. This vocabulary is all pervasive, in its grand sweep from the big daddies of fashion to the street side Saree shops working with a mass produced industrial aesthetic.
While the richness of experience that the Saree is capable of in contemporary times, is there for anyone to see, it’s very rare to see a comprehensive, all encompassing celebration of the Saree. Craft platforms are unwilling to engage with the newer forms the Saree is lending itself to, sometimes looking down upon, denigrating or thinking poorly of these styles and placing a premium on the handcrafted, traditional forms over the others. The big bad world of Indian fashion returns this compliment by shifting the premium to the more cutting edge, experimental forms in which the Saree is being re-imagined. As a result, even though we have an immensity of ways of looking at the Saree, we experience this grand narrative in fractions and fragments, and almost never do we attempt to create a story which allows us to enjoy and engage with all these forms and styles of the magic garment, without building hierarchies, and putting Saree aesthetics into boxes.
The Saree Festival attempts to be this unalloyed, all pervasive love affair with the drape, in bringing together the vast richness of styles, materials, traditions, techniques, experiments, vocabularies, sensibilities, that can all achieve fruition under the never ending swirl of the Saree. We do not want just this or just that, if it is the Saree, we want it all, to experience the magical transformation of the Saree, in all its mind boggling avatars. The Saree sans frontieres! We also hope that the festival will bring to light some exciting new work in the realm of the Saree, and away from those who have already achieved Saree stardom, encourage the next rung of Saree makers to enter the fray. Because when it comes to the Saree, there is ever room for so much more…
The festival comprises of Saree Mela, an exhibition and sale of diverse Saree collections, from hand-woven to fashion forward sarees, design interventions to digital print sarees by leading and emerging contemporary designers working in varied mediums. Saree ka Gunijan Khana, the theoretical and performance aspect of Red Earth’s The Saree Festival hopes to bring together various voices and ideas around the Saree, in a multidisciplinary approach to celebrate the wondrous swirl of the Saree.