Telling stories of two rivers through silk scrolls

Monday 04th September 2017 14:23 EDT

As part of a year-long programme marking the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and the cultural relationship with the UK, Silk River, an ambitious project has been created which explores the unique relationship between London and Kolkata through artistic exchange between communities along the Thames Estuary and India’s Hooghly River.

Working in 20 locations from Murshidabad to Batanagar (Hooghly) and Kew Gardens to Southend (Thames) the aim is to gather, share and retell stories of these riparian communities through interprating them onto 20 hand-painted Murshidabad silk scrolls.

Ali Pretty, Kinetika’s Artistic Director, is collaborating with associate artistic Think Arts director Ruchira Das and an international team of artists, writers and photographers have captured and interpreted the experience of journeying along these two mighty rivers.

Murshidabad is famous for its cowdial saris made of fine mulberry silk with flat, deep- red or maroon borders made with three shuttles. The borders are laced with fine serrated design in gold zari. Murshidabad silks are also popular for hand-printed designs and other materials which are also printed with wooden blocks. Calcutta and Serampore in the Hooghly district are the main textile hand-printing centres in West Bengal. Records show that the Silk Weavers of Murshidabad were operating in 18th century when Nawab Murshid Quli Khan shifted the capital of the Dewanee of Bengal from Dhaka, now in Bangladesh, to a new capital he built on the east bank of the River Bhagirathi and named Murshidabad.

On 30 August, these hand painted Silk River Scrolls were revealed together at the Totally Thames launch party in London. At 6m tall, they only just fitted into the Chain Store at Trinity Buoy Wharf, but they looked really spectacular surrounding the stage.

Representatives from all ten UK Silk River partners were there to see them. As a part of the journey The Silk River UK Walks will start at Kew on 15th Sept and continue until 24th at the finale in Southend. The walks are part of the Totally Thames season of events as well as part of UK India 2017.

ThinkArts was founded in December 2013 to facilitate high quality, transformative arts events for children and young adults.

Ruchira Das told the Asian Voice newspaper, “Silk River has been a fantastic experience of engaging with communities along the two rivers, finding connections, making new ones and discovering fascinating aspects about our heritage and the arts.”

Two 'patachitra' artists from Naya village, Swarna and Monu Chitrakars have also travelled to the UK, with Das to deliver workshops to participants from the 10 communities along the Thames, to inspire them through the form of the beautiful Pattachitra tradition of creating narrative scrolls.

Dr Sanjukta Ghosh who is coordinating the Durga idol installation at SOAS organised the inauguration of the Bengal Heritage project of London Sharad Utsav, subsequently with the patachitra artists. They sang the verses of the famed Komagata Maru scroll painting at the launch event.  

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