A Flower from Every Meadow
Design and Innovation in Pakistan's Dress Traditions
The exhibition, A Flower from Every Meadow, on show at the Mohatta Palace Museum is a tribute to the textile arts of Pakistan. It is not commonly known that the textile traditions of Pakistan are one of the oldest and richest in the world that date back to 5000 BC. Situated at the crossroads of several great civilizations; the Iranian plateau, Turkey, Central Asia, South Asia and China, Pakistan has remained a crucible for diverse artistic traditions. A unique confluence of cultures, brought about through conquest, trade and migration, has led to a vast array of techniques, embellishment and patterns in dress.
The objects on display, over a hundred and fifty in number, were culled from amongst a collection of nearly a thousand items, the majority having been obtained on field trips across the country, commencing in 1972 in Tharparker, and ending in 2014 in the valley of Khaplu in Baltistan. One of the oldest and most unusual exhibits found in Shikarpur, a traditional Zoroastrian dress or qamis, circa 1860, testifies to links between the lower Indus valley and the Zoroastrian community in Yezd, Iran.
The first gallery in the exhibition, titled Magical Rhythms, pays homage to three master craftsmen who continue to practice traditional techniques of weaving and decorating cloth. The galleries dovetail with each other as each represents a particular mode of making and embellishing cloth. Painted, printed and tie dyed fabrics are displayed in the second gallery titled, Ties that Bind. This is followed by Wandering Weaves, Woven Warps, that includes a compelling range of woven garments and spreads from centres in the Punjab, the Thar desert, Nasarpur, Multan, Balochistan and the Khyber.
Flying Carpets includes a stunning display of woollen flat weaves from Balochistan, Sindh and Chitral. A visually striking display of lungis and Baloch shift fronts is followed by embroidered garments and accessories from across the country including those from the private collection of the Talpur Mirs of Hyderabad. This gallery, A Flower from Every Meadow, eponymous with the title of the exhibition, marks a dramatic finale to the traditional garments.
Nine modern designers, Shumaeel Ansari, Sonya Battla, Rizwan Beyg, Bunto Kazmi, Maheen Khan, Sana Safinaz, Faiza Samee, Nilofer Shahid and Saira Shamoon, follow with visual expressions of their own, having derived inspiration from the traditions on show. Each of them has displayed ingenious cuts, motifs and embellishment.This exposition, Here and Now, highlights the chemistry between the traditional and the modern and illustrates the varied influences that have shaped dress and fashion in Pakistan today.
The narrative that runs through the exhibition is one of joyful appreciation, the traditional textiles being made for personal or domestic use or as tokens of love and kinship whilst those fashioned by our designers are visual treats to be acquired and worn by those that appreciate them. At the same time, the exhibition emphasises preservation as well as appreciation of our cultural heritage. The displays are not just meant to be viewed; but to be imbibed, understood and recreated, if a magnificent artistic tradition of our heritage is to be sustained.