Tai khampti artisans wove an intricate striped weave pattern using the local motif called kes. While the input on the colours and dimensions came from me, the weaving supervision was carried out by Nang Amlavati. If I gathered right, her own mother wove this weave, or perhaps aunty, her mother-in-law.
Amla’s mother-in-law was a great weaver too and gave me many inputs over these years on understanding weaving as a concept. Because she could put together words in Hindi and was an amazingly charming woman-teacher, I felt a deeper connect with her and could talk to her around many topics.
I connect the deepest with grandmothers, anyways. Aunty passed away last year leaving many of us remembering her as a weaving mentor who always had a welcoming big smile. I can still hear how she would call my name when I would arrive at the threshold of their home in Namsai. Namsai in Khampti means Water & Sand- Nam is Water, Sai is Sand.
At Namsai, I felt Yuánfèn with Aunty and the rest of Amla’s family. Through her I met many weavers in the neighbourhood. Over these years, I saw her children grow. When Aunty passed away, Amla and I reflected together about her life.
Such textiles are not just weaves intertwined. Such textiles are many years woven in the pattern of life bringing together the land, the soil, the festivals, the people, their culture, their prayers, our collective ups and downs. We check on each other’s well being from time to time. These weaves are reward of co experiencing a certain passage of time together. A slice of time documented in the Infinite.
Aunty always made tea with tez patta- bay leaves. I liked how she made tea. She also sat together while we ate meals and would tell me how to best enjoy their recipes.
Famous cantonese saying translates as,
Ten years of merit brings two people to cross a river in the same ferry, and a hundred of merit brings two people to rest their heads on the same pillow.
This is Yuánfèn.
The weaves of the drape and pallu are made by Tai Khampti weavers on the land where Tai Khampti people reside, supervised and consent by local artisans and their families, providing livelihood to women in the district. This Sari was made as part of an initiative that has lasted more than 5 years, where about 30 women earned livelihood under the leadership of Nang Amlavati. These weaves are not bought but commissioned work woven with cotton brought from Salem, Tamil Nadu in order to encourage use of cotton over synthetic yarns.
I combined the base and pleats of handspun handwoven Eri silk to complement the intricately woven weaves in the drape and Pallu.