Stitch on the Move

Reema Gehi, pag. 12, Jun 14th 2015, Mumbai mirror

A social artist from Italy meets her match in Ambedkar Nagar’s Banjara colony to tell the story of life in embroidery.

Ensconced in the tony neighbourhood of Cuffe Parade is Ambedkar Nagar, home to 7,000 members of the Gormati Banjara tribe from Karnataka. Most of the men work at the near at hand Sassoon Docks, while some of the women make their livelihood as domestic helps.

But Sita Chavan, 37, adds to her family’s income by preserving the nomadic community’s textile legacy. She spends most of her day at a sewing machine in her cramped home, stitching the ghagra-cholighungat matha for the women of the tribe. On the day we meet her, she is dressed in a printed saree, its appeal nowhere close to the mirrorwork embroidery the Gormatis are famed for. “Unfortunately, we now reserve traditional wear only for big occasions,” she says.

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