Every year, a bunch of curious colour researchers from Asian Paints set out on a journey. Traveling from one end of the country to the other, we spend months searching and discovering new shades and expressions of colours, richly interwoven into our arts and crafts. This year was no different. The intent was the same, but the journey turned out to be very different. For instead of seeking colours through arts and crafts, we gravitated towards a colour itself.
The starting point was simple. Let’s discover stories of a colour, we said. And begin with a colour we are all curious about. A colour that is ambiguous. A colour that has touched many lives. A colour that neither India would ever forget nor the World would ever forget India for. An ancient colour that has journeyed across many centuries.
INDIGO... But what does it mean to uncover stories of a colour? Should it be about the beauty and how it gets used in a medium of art or craft? Or should it be about its place in the colour wheel and such technicalities? What about the history of the colour that has lived a certain past, affecting its present and future? What about stories of people who have kept aside their life for this one colour? The journey just opened up many such questions in us.
We started from a small town called Tindivanam near Puducherry in Tamil Nadu. For this quaint little town has been supplying natural Indigo to a wide clientele from fashion/textile designers to indigenous craftsmen for generations. Located in the Villupuram district, where around 1500 acres of land is dedicated to Indigo cultivation, KMA exports is one of the leading suppliers of natural Indigo in the country today.
We also visited ‘The Colours of Nature’, a natural dyeing company based in Auroville. Jesus, a dyer from Spain has been running this company for over 23 years, working and discovering many shades of Indigo.
From the farms of Indigo, we headed to yet another arid belt of India that has been home to Indigo from time immemorial. The land of the white desert-Rann of Kutch. Here in a village called Ajrakhpur, live the craftsmen who practice the age old craft of Ajrakh block printing and who can trace their roots all the way back to Sindh.
In Kutch, we also stumbled upon Dinesh Bhai in Bhujodi, a weaver community hamlet. He is another patron of Indigo, who defied the walls of tradition. From a reputed weaving family, he dared to move away from the tradition of weaving to explore and experiment with a new craft-the craft of Indigo making.
Immersing ourselves in many ancient myths and legends of Indigo and Ajrakh, we travelled north towards the Himalayas and visited the spell binding Berinag in Kumaon. Avani is an organisation working on community-centric rural programs. One of their major areas of focus has been natural dyes. Currently a massive effort is underway to revive natural indigo, not only to save this ancient color but also to save the eco-system of farming in Uttarakhand.
This collection of stories has been compiled from our many conversations with the dyers & craftsmen, some bit of secondary research and a whole lot of serendipity that led us from one person to another, one story to the next.
Our attempt in this initiative has been to collect, compose and present the many textures and emotions of this precious colour- as much as is required to feel and embrace it from the depths of its existence.