‘Pahadaan da Laan’: Woman, warp & weft : The Tribune India

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‘Pahadaan da Laan’: Woman, warp & weft

‘Pahadaan da Laan’: Woman, warp & weft


Sarika Sharma

“Tonhada kaam, kaam, ahaanda kaam, ridakna?” (Your work is work, and our work is worthless?) “Ladka kadhai kyun nahi kar sakta?” (Why can’t a boy embroider?) Gendered queries such as these form the heart of the exhibition ‘Pahadaan da Laan’, which has travelled all the way from the Dhauladhars in Himachal Pradesh to the coastal plains of Kerala. Women’s collective Dhaarchidi is currently showcasing it at gFest, a three-month-long art and gender festival, in Kochi. The exhibition is an attempt at sharing and bringing forth the Pahari life, an effort to look around, listen and explore some of the issues that matter.


Long threads cover the length and breadth of the space in no clear patterns in ‘Tana-Bana’. Hanging from them are images of women engaged in mundane works — chopping vegetables; weaving garadu, a woollen garment; the many creases on women’s foreheads reflecting the pains internalised; their weathered feet witness to the miles walked in completing chores that will never be counted.

Another installation is titled ‘What’s behind the window?’ A garadu becomes the canvas here, rather a wall with several windows into a woman’s life. Open these and you find yourself face-to-face with provocative images that talk about anatomy and patriarchy among other things. These become conversation starters with adolescent girls, boys, men and women, besides offering an intimate dialogue with oneself. In yet another installation, the figure of a woman is patched onto a garadu; her body and the basket on her back reflective of the unappreciated facets of her life.

Dhaarchidi is a coming together of young women from Himachal and outside, trying to understand women issues and patriarchy. The collective has 16 members from various villages in Kangra, including women from the Gaddi community. Art was never a preferred medium to this end, but has come up as a potent tool. “While the end product — the installations and a film — has turned out to be very powerful, the process has been equally amazing,” says Pooja, one of the members of the collective.

“When one team member suggested that we use an item related to women’s work as the medium, we jumped at the idea and chose the garadi/garadu (commonly made by pastoral Gaddi women),” the members share. And thus they found the perfect canvas to present their stories.

It was a learning process for both village women working with them as well as the members themselves. “So many things were new for us. Embroidery, crochet, painting, speaking, writing... While working on the exhibition, we came face-to-face with the artist in us,” adds Aditi, another member.

Once ready, the exhibition travelled to various parts of Kangra district where Dhaarchidi is based and then to Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, Studio Safdar in Delhi and has now reached Kerala. People’s reactions to the work have been varied, most interesting ones have come from the opening of windows. “Some laugh, some close them hurriedly, some relate and some kids rush back to invite their friends to watch. Some feel we have overstated, some feel it is all too shameful...” shares Soujanyaa, also a member.

But these exhibitions did initiate conversations, invitations were extended to the collective to showcase at their villages. And if conversations have begun, can change be far behind?

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