Sadhvi Jawa, Textiles, Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholar 2016 – 2018
Sadhvi Jawa’s work is inspired by patchwork tapestries made by women in Kutch and Bihar, India, where stories are told through textiles. She admires the way culture and stories merge through colors, stitches, and material, weaving tapestries which form part of a wider socio-economic narrative.
Born in Panipat, Haryana – a small northern town that is the largest textile exporter in India – deeply influenced Sadhvi’s early understanding of textiles as purely practical items. Her attitude toward textiles matured over time, and she now uses material as an engagement tool in her outreach projects with urban-poor communities and, most recently, for young children with autism. Sadhvi believes that interacting with textiles can help individuals to engage with wider social, economic and political issues and to find their own creative voices.
Sadhvi is keen to use her time at the RCA to work with new materials and techniques, and to explore the ways in which digital technologies impact the art of textiles. She hopes that the skills she learns at the RCA will help her to cultivate meaningful relationships between textile design and her local community, engaging people with new processes of textile production.
In Conversation with Sadhvi
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I come from Panipat, a small town in northern India which is known for textile production. I moved to Bangalore to study art and design and graduated from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. Soon after, I began to work with young people from communities using textiles – embroidery, patchwork, printing as a way of self-expression and a way through which young people could earn a livelihood.
Q: Storytelling is a one of the key theme in your work. Can you tell us more?
A: My inspiration comes from Sujuni and Lambani embroideries of rural India, where women gather to visually tell stories of their lives through this language of stitches and patchwork. These stories are political in nature, trumpeting the hard lives they have lived and are living.
I also feel inspired by artists like Magdalena Abakanowicz and Olga de Amaral. Abakanowicz, whose gigantic tapestries and countless human sculptures become spaces themselves, speaks of the political complexity she came from. My inspirations in both traditional embroideries of India and contemporary textiles works of international artists, speak of “making” as a way to tell stories, as a dynamic force that brings complex ideas to light. As said in the book ‘Beyond Craft – the Art Fabric’, “Olga de Amaral makes weavings, not because of presence of materials and techniques, but because of presence of complex and rich ideas that forced her to the act of weaving. In short, she seeks in the threads, needles and loom the necessary elements with which to make her statement. She weaves because like living organisms or man’s ideas, she must.”
Q: You’ve also explored different themes and subjects in the previous year…
A: I have been building my skills in tapestry making and weaving on handloom, endeavoring to find a language that can give way to ideas in my mind. I use threads, needles, colour, frame loom and handloom to visually translate my concepts. A theme that emerges in my work is ‘space’ – the story of spaces – architecture, people and observations find their way into my tapestries and weaving. I also make artists books through which I research about how colour communicates using layering to bring intersection of various colours together, or arriving at as many shades possible of one colour. The understanding from this engagement gets translated into textile works that I make.
Q: The Abraaj RCA scholars’ community is a diverse one. How has that impacted your work?
A: Many Abraaj- RCA scholars are here with strong social and political awareness and are thriving at working towards understanding the issues relevant to their communities and the world around them. Some of us meet more often than the others, sharing our work and finding ways to collaborate. This gives us an insight into the culture and the context we have all come from and what our journeys have been before arriving at the RCA. These interactions have broadened my way of seeing their art practices and thinking processes.