Weaving a tale through Goa's indigenous Kunbi saree

‘Ancestral Weave’, an exhibition by Clarice Vaz, will be on show at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces, from February 9 to 15
Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.Photo: Gomantak Times

When we think of nation, or state, building, we remember great leaders. And, along with them, indigenous communities of the land who have also contributed immensely. But, we hardly hear their stories or even recognise their efforts.

However, now an art exhibition by artist Clarice Vaz is doing just that by narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community — the Kunbis — through their fabric, which is now commonly known as the Kunbi saree.

Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
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She will display 23 artworks by her in a show, titled ‘Ancestral Weave’, which will be held at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces, from February 9, 2024 till February 15, 2024.

Vaz has painted the Kunbi saree print on canvas using acrylic paste in a syringe to ‘draw’ each single ‘thread’ and ‘weave’ of the fabric.

Vaz who carried research on the Kunbi tribe for seven years mentions that this exhibition is a tribute to this community, who toiled our land to give us food, shelter and the clothing.

'Kunbi Collage, Couple Dancing' by Clarice Vaz is on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,
'Kunbi Collage, Couple Dancing' by Clarice Vaz is on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,Photo: Clarice Vaz

Curator of this exhibition, Vivek Menezes, states, “Paring down to the warp and weft of her – and Goa’s – identity, this sensitive artist has paid tribute to, first of all, the many layers that have come together in our culture: the original Goans.”

“There are many wonderful works here, dwelling on different aspects of the joy, toil, exuberance and daily existence of the indigenous people,” he adds.

Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
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Vaz confirms that, in this exhibition, she speaks mainly about the Kunbi community, and it was their fabric that drew her attention towards them.

Kunbis have farmed the land, built our khazan lands and lead a sustainable life. How did they come to do this? It was because they considered the land to be sacred,” explains Vaz.

'Kunbi Group Dance and Couple' by Clarice Vaz is on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,
'Kunbi Group Dance and Couple' by Clarice Vaz is on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,Photo: Clarice Vaz

“They lived sustainable lives through farming, fishing, producing their hand-woven cloth – the saree or kapot that had a distinctive, decorative design woven at the edge – the loin cloth for men (the kashti) and the famous towel (called the valo),” adds Vaz.

The Kunbi saree (or kapot)  is known for its checked pattern, which according to Vaz, has its own rhythm.

Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
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“When these checks, from the kapot, clung to the curves of their body, it created movement as they moved. It became diagonal, a kind of an optical illusion. If you look at my artwork for a long time, your eyes will also play up,” she states.

Speaking of art, Vaz suggests that the Kunbis’ lives were full of art. “Art was an expression of joy to them, meant to celebrate life. You could see it on their walls, on pottery, wooden toys, beautifully woven baskets and mats, hand painted beads,” she says.

Coffee mugs with the print by Clarice Vaz are on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,
Coffee mugs with the print by Clarice Vaz are on exhibit at ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,Photo: Clarice Vaz

“They used the bark of trees, ochre, shells, quills, plant sap, plant fibres, stone, charcoal clay/mud and even cow dung,” she informs.

“Their women folk were fond of wearing earrings, nose rings, necklaces, flowers around their well-oiled buns. They danced linking their arms together, they sang as they farmed in the fields,” says she.

Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
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Through this exhibition, she is talking about their art, life, and also the issues they face. She is also making a comment on how we can learn how to live in harmony in nature as that’s what we need to do now more than ever before.

Ancestral Weave will be inaugurated on February 9, 2024 at 5.30 pm at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces. As part of the Ancestral Weave Festival, there will be a talk on ‘Goan Textiles’ by Poonam Pandit on the same day.

Clarice Vaz narrating stories of Goa’s indigenous community, the 'Kunbis', through their fabric in her  exhibition, ‘Ancestral Weave’ at Sadhana Dell 'Arte, Merces,.
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On February 10, 2024, there will be a music concert by Sonia Sirsat at 7 pm and ‘Traditional Cooking’ by Assavri Kulkarni (lunch and dinner).

On February 11,2024 from 5.30 pm onwards, there will be a Goan Drum Circle, ‘Takita-Dha’ by Arthur Fernandes and ghumot instrument by Anthony D’Souza.

The exhibition is open till February 15, 2024.

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