Now, the institution has constituted an advisory board, which has sourced master weavers, craftsmen and textile experts to re-visit the traditional version of the sari, using techniques prominent almost a century ago.
Priyadarsini Govind, Director of KF, said that the institution is in the process of documenting its oral history. “Revisiting the Kalakshetra sari followed as a natural choice. From the moment I came into Kalakshetra Foundation as Director, Rukmini Devi’s attention to detail and her aesthetics sense have fascinated me to the point of obsession. With the concurrence of the Governing Board of KF, we constituted the advisory and executive committees for the craft centre to create a blue print for the centre and aid in its implementation,” she said.
“The process started last year with a panel discussion on the sari during the Remembering Rukmini Devi Festival. We then invited some of the senior alumni and weavers for a discussion to go into what constitutes ‘the Kalakshetra Sari’. We have had a series of dying workshops, training in weaving techniques etc. for this process. This is an ongoing quest and it is an early but a very important milestone,” added the renowned dancer.
Visualised from memories from a cross section of people at Kalakshetra and in the weaving communities, and resourced by the advisory board, the weavers have worked hard to create the recent set of fifteen saris. These saris are being showcased as a part of an exhibition titled ‘Inspired Revisit’, at the institution’s Craft Education and Research Centre till March 25. Ranvir Shah, the curator of the exhibition, clearly stated that this is neither a reproduction nor a revival of the Kalakshetra sari.
S Ulaganathan (37), a master craftsman from Kancheepuram, said it took hours of experimentation in the laboratory, to arrive at the perfect ‘mustard yellow’ colour, which is one of the signature features of Kalakshetra saris. “The original saris used a German colour. We experimented in the laboratory to arrive at a dye, that matched the original. Then, we ordered it in bulk and went about the design process. Bamboo reeds were used to build the design. We had to recreate the reed for this procedure. The Korvai, a complex technique, is used to interlace the borders with the body of the sari and is done by two weavers, while the dying process needs two more people,” added the craftsman.