Those growing up in the late-í70s or 80s will surely remember the colourful geometric wall-hangings the size of a usual wall calendar of the oleograph kind that found pride of place mostly in the l...
Those growing up in the late-í70s or 80s will surely remember the colourful geometric wall-hangings the size of a usual wall calendar of the oleograph kind that found pride of place mostly in the living room but did occasionally grace the guest bedroom as well. They always made the place around them happy with their combination of earthy and bright primary colours and, somehow, the absence of visible thought to their design made them loved by all in the household and visitors too since they aroused just good feelings instead of meaning anything.
Those were the one-of-a-kind Solapur wall-hangings, and they became all but ubiquitous in urban homes that felt the need of wall-art without signatures that were more permanent than paper and didnít require interpretation. Honestly speaking, lacking any artifice whatsoever, they were fabulous. And they were new, the weaving of the tapestry and cut-work ones having started no earlier than 1972 when a gentleman in a weaving centre in Solapur, Maharashtra, had the bright idea of combining threads into a thick weave and then embroidering over that to make certain motifs stand out. Both tapestry and cut-work was done and the latter became exceedingly popular. These are the ones we saw on our walls, bought mainly from government emporiums like Handloom House where youíll still find them retailed, though now with tacky scenery on them and a glut of gods and sacred symbols. Theyíre quite intolerable, really. A surfeit of swastikas and Ganeshas can hardly stand in for the brilliance of geometric abstraction, even if inadvertent. And since when did worship or piousness need to be displayed on cotton wall decorations!
Here, we give you one of the classic Solapur wall-hangings, but in gold, as an uncluttered Sita-har where the pierced naksha combination of medallions and pear-shaped pendants hark back to the elegant geometry of the tapestry, and the voids declare kinship with the cut-work in which the weft was not woven and all warp threads sheared to create interesting spaces. Of course, itís not identical to the objects of that craft but the elements are all present : the turned wooden rods can be seen together, and those, with the central medallion above it, are finished in Manipuri style. The floriated patterns of the bosses also refer the simple blooms done on the weaves and are all hand-chased. The structure ó pendulous medallions accompanying the joined shapes of the central Ďpillarí ó is directly derived from the wall-hangings. Where it differs is in the upper section where the chains come into play and the form of a Sita-har is created. But here, too, the effect is light and fresh : the kamal-chains with ball or mango borders are the right sort of slender and the chandrapuli spacers moderate in size and detail. The brass bells have been substituted by ball-jhur.
Itís compelling, the design. Takes nothing out of classic form and workmanship, and yet creates a spacious and graceful long necklace that remains formidable but without the heaviness of what Sita-hars have come to mean. In that, it resembles and recalls the original Solapur wall-hangings and beseeches a firm restoration to their original incarnation. Crafted with interest, purpose and care in rich yellow 22K gold, the Solapur Sita-Har is for certain the embodiment of all thatís special about the handicrafts of our country even though itís derived from and strives to show its inviolable respect towards only one particular decorative art : that of the Solapur cotton wall-hangings.