Thursday, 3 March 2016

Krishna's cloth

Room 91 in the British Museum can be found at the back of the "Living and Dying", Wellcome Trust Gallery.  It houses temporary exhibitions, usually of an ethnographic nature and invariably including textiles.  The exhibitions there are free and there is usually a programme of associated talks and events.

At the moment the galleries is host to an exhibition relating to one particular piece of cloth.  Over 9 metres long it is a devotional textile known as the "Vrindavani Vastra". Woven into it are characters and scenes that tell the story of the Hindu god Krishna. The cloth is made up of 12 strips woven using a lampas weave technique, stitched together.  Why it has been stitched as it has and why it was found in Tibet when it originated from India is not known.

It is worth watching the film running at the beginning of the exhibition as here is explained some of the characters that feature in the narrative depicted on the cloth itself - easily spotted are the crane demon and the snake demon.  There are also dance masks and illustrated manuscripts that relate to the same legend on display.  

It was interesting to see how one textile could be enhanced with additional information and artefacts to tell a more complete story of the lives of the society it originated from. One textile but a multi-layered story.

My time at the exhibition was limited, but as Krishna in the Garden of Assam continues until the 15th August 2016, there is time to return.  

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