News 18 Oct 2017

Tales of Indigo: Sutra Textile Studies’ latest event highlights the revival and relevance of Indigo

Turning green leaves into blue dye seems magical, even today, though the process is known to have been in practice since the Indus Valley Civilization. Through the years, Indigo has unravelled its various uses and properties, refreshing itself and continuing to be relevant. This year, we went in search of Indigo during our Colour Journey and stumbled upon a plethora of cultures and crafts that continue to channel the power of Indigo in variegated ways. Curious to know more, CQ finds out about the Indigo Sutra symposium, as a part of a mini-series on Indigo.

Indigo has now been grown and used in India for over a thousand years. But once upon a time a peasant revolt against forced cultivation and the discovery of synthetic Indigo almost killed Indigo, said to be the world’s only natural blue dye. However, the ancient colour continued to journey and remain vivid through it all. Taking this forward, Indigo Sutra, an international symposium by Sutra Textile Studies hopes to highlight the relevance of Indigo by bringing together various scholars and practitioners to one platform. The event will be conducted between 9th and 18th November, 2017 at the ICCR, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Kolkata.{{image-1}} 

Exploring the revival of Indigo

In recent times, there seems to have been an increasing awareness of the benefits of using Indigo. Though typically used as an organic blue dye, Indigo is also said to have various antiseptic qualities, making it an insect repellent, a natural hair dye and a crucial part of Ayurvedic medicine. We have been using Indigo for years, and yet there’s so much to know and learn about its properties, making a conference like this is essential to its revival.  

Sutra Textile Studies, a not-for-profit society, established in 2002 in Kolkata, hopes to delve further into understanding how and where we’re using Indigo through this symposium. The organisation typically puts together platforms such as this to raise awareness about India’s rich textile heritage. Using seminars, exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations and publications, they hope to pave the way for further research, documentation, conservation and development of India’s textile traditions.{{image-2}}

Celebrating Indigo through conversations 

Did you know Indigo in its pigment form can be used to create non-toxic paints and cosmetics? Have you heard that the Indigo plant replenishes and rejuvenates wastelands?

Indigo Sutra will also include demonstrations, discussion forums and workshops where various experts will draw focus on some of these lesser-known uses of Indigo. The convention intends to facilitate discussions and conversations around Indigo, including but not limited to subjects such as the revival of natural Indigo cultivation and manufacture, dyeing and assurance of quality with natural Indigo, and marketing Indigo products.{{image-3}} 

The event will also see the presence of advisors and renowned scholars Dr. Jenny Balfour Paul, an Indigo researcher and practitioner who has authored three books on the subject; Rubi Ghuznavi, craft researcher, Life Honorary Member of World Crafts Council and founder of Bangladesh based organization Aranya; and Charllotte Kwon, founder of MAIWA, an organization dedicated to the revival of natural dyes and crafts in developing countries. 

Other components of the Indigo Sutra symposium include exhibitions which will feature archival documents, paintings and textiles using natural Indigo, a bazaar featuring handcrafted natural dye textiles and several documentary films focusing on planting and extracting Indigo. In addition to the packed programme, delegates attending the conference can also choose to visit nearby weaving villages for textile tours that shed light on the various local handicrafts and their processes.{{image-4}} 

In Search for Indigo, the Colour Journey films, will also be screened at Indigo Sutra. To register for and attend the event, head to Sutra Textile Studies’ website here.

Keep up with Colour Journey ‘In Search of Indigo’ stories here.

Stay tuned for more tales of Indigo, soon.

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