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Saturday, July 6, 2013

 "In the Artisan's Mind: Concepts of Design in Traditional Rabari Embroidery"


Judy Frater

Co-founder and Project Coordinator for the Kala Raksha Trust

Bhuj, Kutch, India 

The Rabari are a community of pastoral nomadic people who live throughout the arid regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat, India.  Originally camel herders, Rabaris migrated from Rajasthan into Sindh (now in Pakistan) and back to India over a period of more than ten centuries.  Rabari women are particularly famous for their dense, intricately embroidered garments, household decorations and animal trappings.  The rich languages of the distinctive styles they use tell their history. The styles continue to live and evolve increasingly rapidly as Rabari lifestyle adjusts to a developing world.  Judy Frater has documented Rabari life and textiles for the past 43 years.  This illustrated talk will explore the concept and design aspect of traditional Rabari work, based on conversations with Kala Raksha artisans.  It will highlight the fact that in traditional work, design is an integral part of a style.  Based on decades of work with the nomadic Rabaris of Kutch, the talk begins with background on the community, and elucidates the elements of traditional Rabari style through the way a Rabari girl learns it.  Bringing the audience from the past to the present, it finally shows how traditions continue to evolve.

Judy Frater is the Co-founder and Project Coordinator for the Kala Raksha Trust, a 1,000 person artisan group in Bhuj, Kutch. As coordinator, Judy has guided the enterprise since 1993, culminating in the establishment of the first design school in India specifically for traditional artisans: Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya, of which she is Director.  In recognition of her accomplishments, Ms. Frater was awarded an Asoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship in 2003, the 2009 Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education, and the Crafts Council of India Kamala Award in 2010. Ms. Frater is author of Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris, for which she received the Costume Society of America’s Milla Davenport award. Prior to her residence in India, Ms. Frater served as Associate Curator of the Eastern Hemisphere Collections at the Textile Museum, in Washington, DC. Ms. Frater lectures widely and serves as consultant to museums with South Asian collections throughout the world.

***There will be a special Trunk Show of Rabari textiles following the lecture, until 1 p.m.


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