Rediscovering jajam

 

Have you heard of jajam? These large patterned floor spreads coloured in traditional shades of red and black were once commonly found in Rajasthan.  Here at the museum, we were familiar with these block printed textiles, however, until recently did not appreciate their cultural significance.  A new exhibition at AMHP,  Rediscovering Jajam ,  highlights a wide-ranging collection of new and vintage jajam, along with a selection of contemporary block printed clothing and home furnishings, the work of Kriti Gupta and Avinash Maurya and their fledgling company Wabisabi Project.

Traditional syahi-begar jajam by female printer Devi Sahay Chhipa, wife of Ramswaroop Chhipa,  Jairampura, c. 1997

This dynamic husband and wife team epitomizes how heritage crafts can flourish in a modern world where factory made goods often compete with the handmade. Traveling around Rajasthan’s small towns and villages, Kriti and Avinash took the time to listen and learn from the elder craftsmen who had made jajam for generations. Sadly, such printers are disappearing and with them years of acquired knowledge is slowly fading away.  Culturally sensitive and compassionate, this couple inherently understood the importance of collaboration for the future vibrancy of heritage crafts, a principal that underlies the museum’s own ethic.

Reproduction of a multi-coloured jajam style once freuently printed in Jahota. Purushottam Chhipa, Jahota, 2017.

While exploring the region, these stunning indigenous floor spreads caught their eye. In earlier days jajam offered a place for family and friends to congregate during the multitude of Indian festivals and religious ceremonies. Warriors on horseback and creatures like tigers, elephants and scorpions sometimes surround the border to protect the group from perceived dangers. And frequently, jajam contained a chaupad, a game board in the centre where people gathered for hours of entertainment tossing the dice and racing to the finish line, reminiscent of a round of Ludo.

Detail of traditional jajam. Stacked borders containing horseback riders and soldiers  surround bold patashi design . Krishna Gopal Chhipa, Shreenagar , c.1990
Chaupad game board  in the centre of a jajam. Wabisabi Project, 2017

Visit AMHP and explore this exhibition on your next visit to Jaipur. Don’t forget to ask for the fun participatory guide, or perhaps play a game of chaupad assisted by the AMHP staff. For the truly dedicated, Wabisabi Project offers workshops at their block printing operation based in Bagru. (AMHP blog: 9/17)

Complex diamond pattern with central chaupad by  Bagru master printer  Seduram Chhipa , 2017

Kudos to Wabisabi Project for their visionary dedication to hand block printing!

Text: Suki Skidmore

Photos : AMHP archives

 

 

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