NIFT is a bridge between traditional Indian crafts and the global scene, writes Sonal Motla

NIFT is a bridge between traditional Indian crafts and the global scene, writes Sonal Motla

Having been the visual curator of KGAF 2020, I couldn't think of a larger audience than that of the Kala Ghoda Art Festival which had about 10 lakh footfall last time

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Saturday, February 04, 2023, 09:39 PM IST
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Pic: Sonal Motla

It's been a year since I first visited NIFT Mumbai, all the way to Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. I was invited as a jury member, but what started as a professional relationship soon turned into a connection that I hold dearly in my heart. The enthusiasm of the students, their talent and sincerity touched my heart and suddenly that long journey from Juhu to Navi Mumbai felt like taking flight into an open sky of possibilities and dreams. 

NIFT is a bridge between traditional Indian crafts and the global scene, and I see these students as my warriors whom I trust, who will now leave our crafts not as fossiled exhibits in a museum but bring them to the forefront on a global contemporary stage.

The role that I found myself adorning was to be a part of Shift at NIFT. I wished to bring this institute, which was tucked into a cosy suburb of Mumbai, with fabulous students and a hardworking faculty. I was propelled into doing as much as I could with the institute and hoped be a part of bringing a shift in terms of context, spectrum and showcasing.

Having been the visual curator of KGAF 2020, I couldn't think of a larger audience than that of the Kala Ghoda Art Festival which had about 10 lakh footfall last time. My dear friend Brinda Miller, doyen and the chairperson of the Arts and Crafts festival was graceful enough to let us participate less than a month before the event. 

This time, NIFT has moved from display and exhibition design to creating art installations. The group of octant-shaped structures feel like phases of a moon, brought down on earth and the spiral formation is reminiscent of the tarpa drawings in a Warli painting. The installations are covered with organic mull that breathe and bring time alive. Each of these structures are art installations, a shift from the regular stall and display design that the students are familiar with. It was heartening to see them work day and night, with passion, to create and innovate another format.

In an installation called Waiting for Godot, students have worked with the traditional Solapur wall-hanging craft made in a contemporary style, displayed as a waiting room. Hands With a Heart is an installation that shows how craftspeople use their hands to follow what their heart dictates to create beautiful handicrafts. In the installation Reflect, old crafts that would otherwise be shattered, have been translated into contemporary wear. All this is well encapsulated in Way Ahead, an installation which has a bicycle; a metaphor for looking at the past while one is driving forward, which seems to be the theme at NIFT Mumbai.

Having visited the Van Gogh 360 show, some students approached with the desire of creating a similar experience. Astonished by their naivety, I questioned them if they were aware of the cost of creating such an experience! They remained unfazed and requested to use the institute’s projectors and be given a chance. Hence, only three weeks before the show, thirty hour days rolled. Motifs from the crafts, contemporary imagery, a circling sun, filled the colourful digital canvas. The stumbling, giving up and rising again became the rhythm of the days. Finally, they did manage to put up an interesting show. 

One of the interesting performances is Un-Conflict, wherein the performers have worn haute couture ensembles with camouflage prints used in military uniforms. These act as a metaphor to talk about how disharmony and conflict arise from disrespect and affect everyone alike.

Un-Shackle is a performance that talks about how the patriarchy, power, and self-imposed mindsets are puppeteers that control us in our lives. Be it Un-Shackle or Un-Oppress, they talk about how shackles of the oppressor need to be broken down for all beings to be free and equal. Sabrang, a nukkad natak talks about how a colour cannot be territorial or capitalised by any one group.

I often think that the best education is always wrought with challenges of resources and the will to overcome it all by ingenuity and creativity. To know whether this has turned out to be successful or not, kindly visit KGAF 23 at the Cross Maidan, till Sunday February 13.

(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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