The Bandhani of Kachchh: Ties Across Time


I haven’t written much about my project on this blog, so I’ll take this opportune time to tell you a little bit about what I am doing in this mecca of creative spirits.

I am based in Bhuj, a small town (by Indian standards) in Kachchh where the people are friendly, girls feel safe, sweets are delicious, and Sundays go by too fast.

Work has been great–stressful at times, but a great learning experience and definitely loads of fun. I am in charge of putting up an exhibition on Bandhani, an Indian tie-dye technique that has been around for many centuries. Gujarat is known to have the finest bandhani, and Kachchh has the most intricate work, so I’m definitely in the right place. My organization, Khamir, works to revitalize craft practices in Kachchh, and my work is for both craft preservation and cultural engagement. Tourist season has begun, and my exhibition falls right in that sweet spot: January 18 – March 15 2013.

Over the last few months, I have researched the history of this technique, traditional uses, documented the process of how it’s made, and collected gorgeous old and new items for a 2-month display period. I have interviewed so many bandhani artisans about their professions, family histories, inspirations, and thoughts on the business’ future. I have heard some great stories, met many fascinating people, and have been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of everyone to share their stories in the name of bringing some awareness about their craft, their passion, their life.

I have met artisans who have stuck to their traditional ways, others who have adapted with the markets, and two brothers who were the perfect yin-yang combo needed to run a creative business. I have met adorable little children whose smiling faces can make your day, young women who have the kind of spunk you wouldn’t expect in a small village, and old men who still possess an impressive zeal for life.

I have been inspired, laughed till my stomach hurt, eaten delicious meals, and had plenty of adventures traveling with my small crew of misfits. (Sarah: a fellow from Germany, and my super amazing camera person, Shruthi: talented photographer/travel buddy, and Dipeshbhai: the guy who makes everything happen)

As I now sit to write about everything I have learned into museum-style exhibition panels, I only wish I could just keep visiting more people as there are so many more stories to tell, people to meet and places to go. My work is not yet done, but I have had to draw the line.

For now, I leave you with two creative elements: a poster for our exhibition, and a link to a teaser for our short film resulting from these interviews. Sincere thanks to Khamir, Shruthi, Dipeshbhai, Sarah and the artisans for being so awesome.

Enjoy, and please tell your friends 🙂


Video: Bandhani: Ties, Dyes and Bumpy rides in Kachchh


Jilna spent the first half of her life in Nairobi, Kenya, and then moved to the suburbs of Washington DC for high school. New York City was home for five years as she worked towards fulfilling her dream to work in the entertainment business. A career in television led her back home to Maryland, and her involvement with South Asian organizations--both personal and professional--remained a constant through these transitions. Additionally, she spent her spare time volunteering with small organizations, and also joined the board of a local non profit for the chance to aid a group with a different mission. Despite having deep connections to her culture, Jilna has never visited India, and is thrilled with the opportunity to live and work in India supporting Khamir's initiatives for the coming year.

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4 thoughts on “The Bandhani of Kachchh: Ties Across Time

  1. Loved the video, young man looking away sipping out of his rakkabi- Swastika block, interesting symbolism to speak of ties and unity, strong men at work on women’s clothing and bapa ji un-dyed beard- Super. How does one see the full film?

  2. Hi,
    I found your post really interesting. I am looking to show case the history of Bandhani in London, I
    Have a real love for it and we are currently designing new range of bandhani Silk blouses for the Western market
    I would love to meet some of the artisans in Gujarat so that we can us there art and tell their stories. My parents are originally from katch in Gujarat.
    Are you able to give me some advice on how I maybe able to get in touch with them.
    Looking forward to hearing from you
    Chandrika Hillman

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