Nature Bazaar is an effort by the Delhi Department of Tourism to bring the best artisans from throughout India to the city for permanent exhibition. Or, let me say, the space is permanent and the artisans rotate. So, it’s more of a pop-up and the artisans change about every six weeks. This group goes until November 30, 2016.
I returned on my own so I could leisurely browse the textile collection, speak with the makers, and go through the stacks of cloth in search of indigo blue, red madder, turmeric root dyed yellow cloth. I didn’t want to miss anything. This extended to a three-hour meander to uncover as much as possible.
My textile artists friends tell me that the Nature Bazaar cooperative is the best source for India arts in Delhi. Funds from the purchases go directly to the artisans who participate.
My friend Lee Schwartz, who just returned from a 10-day tour of Rajasthan, claims she saw nothing of the quality on the tour that she encountered at the National Crafts Museum in Delhi. After a visit there, today, I still rank Nature Bazaar as the top shopping spot in Delhi, with second place going to FabIndia.
As with Oaxaca, it’s important to know where to source. I’ve decided to focus this India visit on textiles and not on typical sightseeing and monuments (though tomorrow we leave for Agra and the Taj Mahal).
There is so much here that zeroing in on what is important to me helps conserve energy. It’s impossible to get to more than two or three places in a day because of the intense traffic, horn-honking and dust. It just wears you out!
At Nature Bazaar, I met Margaret Zinyu, who has a degree from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. She planned to go into fashion design but decided to return to her native Nagaland, in northeast India on the Myanmar border, to work with local weavers using cotton dyed with indigo. She is just starting her company Woven Threads and this bazaar was the premiere of her products.
India is at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road. The people here are a multicultural blend of Asians and Europeans, Hindus and Muslims. There is as much diversity here as I see in Mexico. The people from the Himalaya foothills, part of India, bring their kite flying traditions to the crafts of the country, for example. These are for sale at the Nature Bazaar, too.
There are also several stalls with hand-wrought silver jewelry from the Himalayas and Afghanistan. Many of the designs looked North African, like those I had seen in Morocco and southern Spain.
There is no cochineal here, of course. This is a humid country and the insect is only found in hot, dry climates like Mexico where the nopal cactus thrives. So madder, the red dye that is more the color of red earth than intense carminic red, is what is found here. However, indigo is king in India and the British capitalized on its export starting in the early 17th century. Today, it is only cultivated in Tamil Nadu in the south of the country.
Walking the streets and riding the Metro, I see women of all ages wearing saris and the shalwar kameez pantsuit with tunic top and harem-style pants dyed with indigo blue. Women’s clothing of India is beautiful, lightweight and easy to wear.
Mexican indigo is extracted from the native plant Indigofera suffruticosa, known as añil, found in the tropics of the Americas. Native indigo from India is Indigofera tinctoria, known as true indigo, and is found in Asia and Africa. The plant and leaf structures are different, but the process to produce the color is the same.
The most intense blue comes by dipping the cloth at least several times in the indigo dye bath.
My goal on this trip is to bring back examples of of cloth dyed with indigo, using a variety of weaving, tie-dye and printing techniques.