Many of the textiles I admire are far beyond my price range, which has been slightly disheartening for me. I asked Jack Cassin for his advice on starting a collection with little money. He told me to choose what appeals to me, and suggested that I take a look at Kutch textiles. I'm so glad I took his advice!
As soon as I saw this dowry bag offered by Ethnic Indian Art, I knew I'd found my piece.
This is a Kutch Rabari Banjara Gypsy traditional dowry bag from the mid 19th century. It measures 20 inches by 33 inches. The bag was created in Saurashtra Gujarat, India by artists of the Kathi tribe.The bags are embroidered by the bride-to-be and presented to the groom's family prior to the wedding.
The motifs include what appear to be two women and two children on the lower level, and two animals and a child on the upper level. A lone little animal stands off to one side of the top level of figures. It kind of looks like a camel, but it's too stylized to tell. A band of heavily embroidered diamond motifs and mirrors runs along the bottom of the bag, together with three hand-tied yarn tassels. The entire top portion of the bag is covered with running-stitch spirals, meanders, diamonds, lines, and concentric squares. The figures are decorated with diamonds, chevrons, and meanders. These may be derived from entoptic imagery.
The Kathi claim to be descended from the Sura, ancient sun worshippers found in western India who are in turn descended from Kush, the son of the Hindu God Ram. I wonder if some of those motifs derive from ancient ritual. The spirals may be celestial images, and the other geometric forms certainly appear to be entoptic. This bag can be said to be symbolic of transition, regeneration, and fertility, as it is so closely associated with marriage. Entoptic/sacred imagery would not be out of place on such an item.
I love this piece. Love it.