Phulkari is an expression of rural women’s love, life and struggles

To revive Punjab’s cultural heritage through artworks and handicraft, Punjabi concept store, ‘1469’, organised their fifth edition of ‘Mela Phulkari’ in the Capital recently. In an exclusive interview to Indusscrolls, Kirandeep Kaur, revivalist and store owner of 1469, talks of her fascination for Punjab and this year’s theme ‘Panj Pyares’ — as the exhibit highlights the five loved ones, and the symbology of five in the land of five rivers.

Alia Bhatt wearing Bhag in the movie Highway

What does the truck – with Highway painted on it – signify in your exhibition?

This is the fifth edition of ‘Mela Phulkari’. Every year we take up one facet of Punjab and display it in our exhibition. This time we chose the theme Highway and number five – just as Punjab is the land of five rivers. One of the installations is the Bhaag that actress Alia Bhatt wore in the movie ‘Highway’. It is from our store 1469. It has five colours -magenta, sage green, ivy, yellow and orange. Bollywood film director Imtiaz Ali is fascinated by Punjab and he always uses elements from the vibrant State in his movies like he had done in Rockstar, Harry Met Sejal, Tamasha and Love Aajkal.

What is the installation – Kalam Punjab Di all about?

We have featured writers of Punjab from the 19th century and early 20th century in this installation. The section includes Bhai Veer Singh, who has written poetry and prose and has translated the Guru Granth Sahib, Amrita Pritam, Prof Puran Singh, Allah Yar Khan Jogi, Dhani Ram Chatrik. We have included their traditional writing tables, lanterns and other items that they used while writing.

Five games of Punjab

You have also displayed some rural sports from Punjab. Please tell us about some.

There are many traditional sports that were played in Punjab like the gulli-danda, gullel, kanche (marbles) which we don’t get to see these days. Khuddo-khoondi, which is similar to Hockey, was also played with a lot of fascination all over Punjab. We wanted to bring all these rural sports to the forefront and discuss them through this exhibition.

Tell us about your collaboration with the Punjab Digital Library?

One of the installations at the exhibition depicts the famous forts of Punjab – Fort Jamrudpur, Fort Phillaur, Fort Anandpur Sahib and Fort Patiala. These forts and many others have prominent historical importance and give an insight into past of Punjab. There are hundreds of rare, ancient books, data and photographs related to Punjab’s heritage buildings, art and culture, but they are not in a great form. We collaborated with the Punjab Digital Library (PDL) to preserve the enormous data for the coming generations. All the available data are being preserved in digital form and much of it is now available online as well.

Five patterns of Phulkari

Tell us something about the famous Phulkari craft that is displayed at the exhibition.

Phulkari is the embroidery technique from the Punjab region. It literally means ‘flower work’. It is an expression of women marvelled by the gift of life, narrating festivity and fertility, or just the endeavour of women, engulfed in struggle and hardships, to find joy. Women used to craft this embroidery over cherished conversations about children and marriage, or women indulging in meditation or devotion to the Almighty. Earlier this embroidery used to be done only on khaddar (a type of fabric) by the local women as part of their daily chores. They were also made for special occasions such as weddings and childbirth. It was not used for commercial purpose and people made them for gifting and their own consumption. Women used to weave their dreams or stories in creative and geometric patterns on dupattas. Most motifs were taken from every day. Peacock, wheat and barley stalks are some common motifs. Sadly, today it is done for commercial purpose only and on cotton and silk fabric. We have a collection of 250 traditional and rare dupattas. Each dupatta has a different stitch and pattern. For our store 1469, we take help of women expert in this embroidery to create the traditional dupattas. They do it in their free time and give us the final product in a month or two. This way we are trying to save and promote the traditional craft.

Folk artists performing at Mela Phulkari

Mela Phulkari also showcased the folk music of Punjab…

Through this event, we invited a host of glitterati from Punjab including Imtiaz Ali, Rabbi Shergill, Jasbir Jassi and Gurmeet Bawa who performed at our exhibition. The famous troupe Sardars of Sangrur also performed where they played the dying folk instruments of Punjab.

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