Hyper-culture: Merging Bengal and Africa. Like Never Before.

If music would play during epic moments of my life, it would be playing right now. (I can so imagine Somebody New by the Amplifetes. Dunno.) Maybe because I'm writing after 7 months after desperately trying to pull myself out from work, and if not work, out of my bed! *pleads guilty of being excessively lazy* 
But then again, I have nothing else in life except my love for fashion and friends. And what better way to kick-start writing again than the trip to the hub of Bengal handicrafts? With friends. And a heavy dose of fashion.

Shantiniketan is a small town in West Bengal, a 3 hour train journey from Calcutta. Here you get artisans who know ANY Bengal craft-work, special mention of the Jute artifact making, different embroideries and dyeing techniques. The market places are filled with amazing local craft-works. And oh, you would LOVE the haat which is basically a small fair where all the artisans exhibit their crafts. In between a forest. YES! It's beautiful with the Baul singers singing and the faint hint of monsoon lingering in the air.
Photo Courtesy: Arnab Paul.

We did a lot of Brainstorming to get to our theme which revolved around Africa. After numerous fights and misunderstandings ;) our team, which comprised of Snigdha Seksaria, Meghana Nyayapati, Surabhi Singh, Soumen Halder, Sandipan Das and Me, finally reached the theme Of Hyper-culture: Merging Bengal and Africa. Our brief was to make neck-pieces and belts, involving the traditional Bengali embroidery of Kantha. It took us 2 weeks to complete the embroidery part which was done after we traced all our patterns on the cotton fabrics. The motifs were mostly inspired by African tribes, wildlife and colors.

The tracing of one of the neck-pieces onto the Cotton Fabric.
The embroidery part, though highly difficult was actually a lot of fun. The artisans who were assigned to help us, taught us how to work with Kantha and also the basics of bead-work.
Surabhi working on the beading of one of the neck-pieces.

Soumen trying his hand at Kantha.
Soon enough our embroidery part was complete. We all were very satisfied by the way our products were turning out to be. Designing neck-pieces is easy but designing contemporary neck-pieces for up-scale market clients is difficult especially if it involves reviving the much ignored rural crafts.

Our group with our final embroideries. :) :)

The next part was actually making the neck-pieces and belts. We cut out the motifs we had made, and sandwiched felt between the embroidery part and cotton-silk to make it stiff. Somewhat like a bib neck-lace. What set our neck-pieces apart was the fact that we used cane rings as the supporting part around the neck. This was inspired by the Masai Tribe of Africa which wears similar chunky rings of beads around their necks.
These are our wonderful final products! :D

Photos Courtesy: Soumen Halder; Editing: Me.

Illustrations by: Soumen Halder & Sandipan Das
As we were getting closer to the end of our project, we were getting more and more excited about the photo-shoot. Getting out the illustrations really helped us decide upon various factors like the make-up, the accessories and the hair. We knew exactly what we wanted.

Too be continued. Watch this space for THE AMAZING photo-shoot featuring Meghana Nyayapati!! :)

Till then... Be fierce!