Hanging by a Thread II
2022, Kasavu Mundu Veshti
42” X 36”
National Museum, New Delhi
The Kerala Kasavu woven with the words “any-body” “every-body” “some-body” and “no-body” is a commentary on how the hands that weave, many a times are unable to wear or afford the same clothes. Clothes carry within them a class divide and politics, especially handwoven ones.
The kasavu also references hegemonies of the land, its history, politics and the phenomenological encounters they mediate. The artist turns our attention to the ways in which the body becomes a “text of culture”, a powerful symbolic surface on which hierarchies are demarcated, and even metaphysical commitments to culture are inscribed. The chosen textual signifiers that are intricately handwoven in the body of the fabric: “any-body”, “every-body”, “some-body” and “no-body'' zoom-in and out to morph binaries between class, caste, and gender to craft a cloth of universality.
Within the threads of the laboured hand woven kasavu, the artist acknowledges questions concerning craft, labour and artistic production. Balaramapuram remains one of the oldest weaving centre’s for the handwoven kasavu, a cluster based near Trivandrum. The weavers trace lineage to the Shaliar clan, originally from Tamil Nadu, brought down to Kerala by the Travancore royal family. Today the region struggles to stay afloat with a dwindling number of handloom artisans and grave challenges to the future of the craft.