Tag Culture

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Have an authentic shopping experience in Kutch

The pretty Hiralal Memorial Craft Park (shopping complex) at Bhujodi
The pretty Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park (shopping complex)

Recently we had an authentic shopping experience that I am excited to recount. In Feb, this year we visited the Rann of Kutch and shopped for handicrafts. Located in Kutch in Gujarat it is a hotbed of handmade products like jewelry, home furnishing, kurtas etc. The best part is that you can buy directly from the artisans. If you read my previous blog you will know that we lived in Hodka village and bought our goods locally. We also bought products from Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park,the Handicraft center, in Bhujodi that sources products from all over Gujarat. 

The friendly villagers and artisans of Hodka village where we bought handicrafts
The little artists of Hodka village

Gujarati hospitality is legendary, hence In Hodka, where we were staying, the entire village came to show us their products. The children were especially cute. We were set up in one of the villager’s house, in traditional ‘Bhunga’ style and sitting on a charpoy, we could choose from all the products. The villagers offered us tea (which many small businesses across India do) and were made to feel at home. While the artisans maybe exposed to people from all over the world it was refreshing to buy from them. 

Can you put a price tag on art?

I was in awe of the handwork. The local women wear long tunics and skirts completely covered in hand embroidery and mirror work. To say that they are talented is an understatement. 

The colourful handicrafts on display at Hodka village
The colorful handicrafts on display

Apparently, you can put a price tag on art. Here I have a small anecdote to share: The villagers offered us silver jewellery to buy. It was not real silver, however the design was unique. I was pushing my friends not to bargain as I was 100% sure you would not get the same design in Mumbai. I was promptly ejected out of the room. Tell me what would you do in my place?

Handicrafts to buy in Kutch: 

Ladies and gents, while this is not an extensive list, we have you covered. By a quorum of 4 we have divided the products into must buys and optional things you can pick up:

The diverse handicrafts of Kutch
The beautiful handicrafts of Kutch on display

MUST BUYS

Mashru Shawls: The Mashru Shawls look smart and are versatile to wear for different occasions. Besides, Mashru fabric is made of silk and cotton making it appropriate for summer . Available at Bhujodi

Furnishings: One can pick up Bed covers/Pillow covers/Table cloths/ wall hangings all with lovely Indian motifs in good quality cotton.However, beware, one of us tried to wash the bed covers and the color ran.

Khadi material for the boys: The Khadi material store at Bhujodi had affordable material that was also great for the summer. We bought it for one of our fathers and he stitched it into a kurta.

Silver Jewelry:The silver jewelry designs are unique tribal designs and worth the buy just for that. We bought from Hodka village and bargained hard for them.

Bird Whistles: These are available in clay/ceramic and make eccentric gifts. Dip them in water and then use them and it will sound like the chirping of birds. These products were only available at the Rann Utsav.

OPTIONAL BUYS:

Gujarati Shawls: These are in distinct Gujarati style, if you have too many shawls, you can give these a pass.

Handmade toys: We picked up handmade cloth toys like camels and horses that make great gifts for children

Bead work jewelry: Made by the young girls in the village, some of the styles were quite funky . Hence, I had to buy them.

Copper Décor:I picked up a copper wind chime (pictured) from Bhujodi. It was atleast 80% less than what it would cost in Mumbai. It’s currently hanging in my balcony.

Whenever I visit a new place I always search about what things I can buy. It adds to the anticipation of the trip. I would highly recommend the experience of buying directly from the village. But whether you buy or not the whole experience is priceless.

Pro tip:You can bargain. However even at MRP all the products we bought were atleast 50% less than what we would buy from online/Mumbai.

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Kochi with a twist

“This is your time to travel, you may not get this much time again.” Encouraged by the husband to travel, I researched on where I could possibly go. As luck would have it, there was an art festival happening in a city, I always wanted to go back to.

Sunsets in Kochi

The Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 is in its 4thyear. Having read about it over the years, I thought this would be a great time to visit. The trip was surprisingly easy to plan. I managed to convince a friend, she booked us cheap air tickets and I booked a cheap Bed& Breakfast. We were set. Sometimes taking the easy route is a good decision.

The first thing you will notice is the way the Biennale is spread out in Fort Kochi. It lets you soak in the culture of the place. The art has Dutch, Portuguese and Keralite venues as the backdrop, not to mention the sea following you throughout. Truly a beautiful setting!

As mentioned the choice of Fort Kochi to host this Biennale is spot on. Some of the reasons to attend:

Beautiful settings to take a break at, Dutch building -David Hall and fresh catch on display, at Fort Kochi!
  1. The place gets properly intertwined with the show and leaves you feeling as if you have got a proper taste of Kochi
  2. Kochi is one of the safest places I have travelled to in India. I would recommend it for women travelers  
  3. Kochi can be as affordable or expensive as you like and the quality of the south Indian fare will still be good. This is my experience after my second visit.

My travel partner asked me if I think the theme of the Biennale ’Possibilities of a Non Alienated Life’ went with the art that was on display. For me it did make sense. It opened my eyes to the conflict in different parts of the world. We may not be touched by it directly, but it is important to be aware. The art was engaging and composed of paintings, installations, movies and experiences.

I highlighted artists that were memorable to me. However I would not want to judge one over the other. I commend the Biennale for the number of topics dealt with from across the world and India, that made me a more knowledgeable world citizen. 

So, in no order of importance some of the artwork that stayed with me includes: 

Walid Raad- ‘I thought I escaped my fate but apparently’
Waalid Raad’s tongue-n-cheek work – ‘Comrade leader comrade leader

Artist Walid Raad– ‘Comrade leader comrade leader- you’d better be watching the clouds.

This artwork made me outright laugh.Quite aptly his political commentary is satirical. I loved the idea of middle eastern leaders appearing as flowers, which in reality has been used as a code for their names. And the piece ‘I thought I’d escape my fate but apparently’ are quotes taken directly from the media and represented in the artwork

Shilpa Gupta- ‘However For in your tongue, I Cannot Fit- 100 Jailed Poets

Shilpa Gupta’s – ‘However For in your tongue, I Can Not Fit- 100 Jailed Poets’.

This installation is beautiful beyond belief. It does not allow you to view it complacently, but you will get pulled into it. It features individuals incarcerated for their politics and poetry. You hear their voices all at once above the mikes. It makes one think about the freedoms we take for granted were what someone else sacrificed their life for. The stories make you feel grateful for being born in a democratic nation, where it is not the rule but rather the exception that the government will snuff out your voice.

Shirin Neshat’s -‘Turbulent’.

We didn’t sit through all the videos as there were many and we didn’t have enough time. However, this video touched me. The explanation said that in Iranian culture women are not allowed to sing to an audience. Then watching the woman singer, sing her unintelligible song to an empty audience, bought home the point of female oppression so clearly. (No picture available)

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’ and the ‘Trojan Ships’

This artwork fascinated us with its light, movement and colour. This installation came alive because of a button on the door and yes, we kept pushing it. No wonder this form of Indonesian puppetry, is considered visual art.

While I love visiting new places, I also love getting deep into oft visited places especially if there is more to explore. So here’s a shout out to the universe to make it happen many more times with Kochi.There were also student & collateral pieces that were housed in different places off the main Biennale venues. We tried to take in as much as possible and I will be doing a pictorial representation of more of the artwork- so stay tuned.

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