“Your world can end in the blink of an eye. One event, one unexpected twist of fate… and suddenly the world as you knew it… is gone. Forever. All that you held dear, all that you held close… is washed away in a sea of distant memory. Life… is cruel. Of this, I have no doubt. But life continues on… with, or without you. One can only hope that one leaves behind a lasting legacy. But so often, the legacies we leave behind… are not the ones we intended.“
— Queen Myrrah in Gears of War.
I love this dialogue the first time I heard it from my son. This is towards the end of Gears of War 2, an X-box game that he plays. It has so much depth, and in many ways, resonates with my life the past few months.
The dreamy picture above is from a beautiful store called Pilgrimage Spaces, in Cape Town, South Africa. But little would one have imagined that every object here that tickles a memory or experience of India is actually not in India.
The appeal of mass-produced goods is so high from an affordability and accessibility perspective that we forget our origins and indigenous crafts that have sustained communities for generations. During my trips to the craft fairs in town, I often hear artisans rue that they are the last to practice the trade with the knowledge and experience; the current generation is either not interested or has moved to urban pastures in the hopes of a better livelihood. Skills that take patience and years to excel cannot be replaced my machines. Many crafts on the brink of extinction come to mind, but a few stand out such as the Kawandi quilts by the Siddhi community, or the authentic Gond paintings.
Ironically, some crafts are not easily available in India but are tapped by foreigners for their niche market abroad. The work by some organizations like Dastkar is commendable as they try to revive or sustain what will otherwise become extinct soon.
I have lived in India all my life. But until a few years ago, I was oblivious to pearl inlay mirror work, a chakki stool, a suzani/ikat patterned dhurrie, or a handpainted almirah. How many times have you seen hand painted steel dabba in traditional Indian motifs?
It would be wrong to say that these artifacts were not known three decades ago. My mom said the other day, “there was an iron chest while she was growing up that housed all the valuables. It was so heavy that she has never seen it being moved until when the ancestral house was renovated. She marveled at the combination of the locks to open the chest. No keys.” She wondered where it was now. Such brilliance, such creativity — all lost to constraints of space, time, and convenience. What was a way of life, we would now pay a fortune to get access to the same! Sure, boutiques such as Pilgrimage Spaces are there in India too, but they come at the cost of exclusivity.
These magnificent pieces are reminiscent of the opulence of an era gone by; the rich cultural legacy our ancestors intended to leave behind. Thank you Pilgrimage Spaces for reminding us of our rich heritage.
Image courtesy: Pilgrimage Spaces