NAGNATA travelled to the Kutch region of Gujarat in Western India to source textiles and meet with tribes from which the traditional materials used in NAGNATA's artisanal collections originate from. The Great Rann of Kutch is the largest salt desert in the world and the name Rann comes from the Hindi word ‘ran’ meaning desert.
The Kutch district is known for it’s rich culture and great range of ethnic communities that still live in the region, maintaining their traditional dress and crafts. The NAGNATA designers ventured north into the Rann of Kutch visiting remote villages of the Paehan, Marwada Harijan and Dhaneta Jat tribes.
NAGNATA were invited into the primitive Dhaneta Jat tribe through a local friend and guide who formed a relationship with the tribe helping rebuild their village after the 2001 earthquake. The Dhaneta Jat tribe are relatively untouched by the western world and don’t often welcome visitors and the children had never seen a white person before. NAGNATA sat in a mud hut with around 40 of the desert people communicating through a guide and viewing their embroidery work and traditional dress.
The natives were adorned with heavy jewels and tattoos and wore the dense embroidered dresses that NAGNATA upcycle and rework into the artisanal collections. The women continue to work on their traditional embroidery styles as a source of income and trade between villages.
The Jat textiles sourced on the Kutch desert journey featured in the latest NAGNATA artisanal range alongside the Rabari, Suf, Khaarek, Paako, Mutava and Ahir embroidery styles of previous collections.
To respect the sacredness of the Paehan, Marwada Harijan and Dhaneta Jat tribes NAGNATA didn’t take photographs inside the villages.
Kutchi people inhabit the Great Rann of Kutch and as NAGNATA drove down desolate desert tracks camel breeders and nomadic Rabari tribes travelling on camelback passed by.
NOMADIC RABARI TRIBES _ The Rabari tribes have long been of fascination and inspiration to NAGNATA. Traditionally Rabari’s were nomadic tribes roaming the desert and plains by camel, sleeping in tents or under the open skies. The men are herders while the women dedicate long hours to their distinctive style of embroidery and mirror work. The Rabari textiles are a favourite of the NAGNATA designers to source and upcycle into the artisanal collections.
The word Rabari translates to outsiders, ‘the one that has gone outside’ or ‘dwells outside’. These wandering women of the desert exude strength unlike any other group of native Indian women NAGNATA have come across. They practice tattooing and almost all surfaces of their bodies are covered in traditional patterns passed down through generations.
BANNI GRASSLANDS _ The Great Rann Of Kutch adventure ended driving across barren desert in search of the Banni grasslands, a belt of desert vegetation rich in wildlife and biodiversity. To reach the grasslands people follow markings of white painted stones left on the ground to signal the path. After a few wrong leads NAGNATA reached the grasslands at sunset, to experience the vast solitude of the desert with the beautiful palette of the setting sun.
BHUJ ARTISANS _ NAGNATA stayed in the small town of Bhuj, an area renowned for some of India’s finest traditional textiles. Artisans of the area are masters of the textile arts including embroidery, handloom weaving, block printing and bandhani tie-dye. Laura May sat with master print and dye artisan Sufiyan to learn more about the art of natural dyeing and bandhani.
On the last day in Bhuj NAGNATA drove an hour to Mandvi Beach on the Gulf Of Kutch, to try and find solace from the desert heat. The sand was burning and the water almost too warm to swim in, but it was a good feeling to be by the water after a month in the hot climate of northern India's dry season.