Real spirit of fashion among gods | 眾神之間的時尚精神

Creating Durga photo collection by Smrita Jain most recently exhibited during the Kaleidoscope of Art & Design Conference at the Nehru Center in London, UK on September 4-5 2017

Looking at the idols high up on the altar with beautiful outfits, one could hardly imagine how much work is put to produce the clothes and the idols. Smrita Jain studied deep into Durga puja, an Indian festival, and discovered the fashion effort behind the tradition.

Smrita Jain – Documentary – Adornment Stage

Celebrating the 10-armed goddess Durga’s glorious return after defeating an evil named Mahishasura, the 10-day festival is similar to Christmas in the Western world. Indians worship the goddess and her fellow deities by carving sculptures and reappearing her majesty in front of the public.

For such a festival, it took 4 – 5 months and families of artists. Look carefully at the sculptures; each arm of Durga has different adornments and decoration.

The fashion design of Durga, meanwhile, is more flexible depending on budget set by the community or organisation that hired the artists.

Either all decoration is carved onto clay or placed on the sculptures after the production of garments. The main material used is called Shola, a plant that grows only in marshy areas near West Bengal. On top of that, traditional costume 9-yard sari with kyari shape that symbolises mother’s womb and represents the power of women giving birth to new life is essential. Everything is handmade.

Smrita Jain – Documentary – Close up of Shola

The most important part is to bring out the glory of Durga and her fellows, which takes extremely delicate work of artists since they have to put clothes on Durga without breaking any of her fingers (each has 50) or fragile parts. One Durga takes a few artists to finish and one artist would take a few orders.

“My mother who grew up in West Bengal/Calcutta said each artist that crafts these idols gets around 15 to 20 Durga idol sets. It’s their livelihood and these families have been doing this for generations. The artists in Delhi whom I documented had about 8 to 10 idol sets,” reflected Smrita.

Just like all other festivals in the world, people will dress up during Durga puja. Dominant colours like yellow, red, gold, pink, orange and blue are popular and it was said that different colours were for different days, yet this detail bit is lost in time already.

After the festival, all idols will be submerged in water as part of the festivity. Since the fabric is plant based, it is environmentally friendly to “handle” the idols in such a way and return the gift to the nature.

Smrita Jain – Documentary – Family Helping

“I want to bring focus to the artists and the craft that makes the crux of this festival. They are the image creators and I wanted to document the craft. The creative process is a celebration of its own,” said Smrita.

She faced a few challenges for the documentary: asking permission to document the creative process, photographing in “studios,” which are roadside corners covered with plastic sheets and limited light source. All photos are taken under natural light by a film camera with no post-production.

Other than the cultural implication, Durga’s fashion has given meaning to peoples’ lives in India not only because the materials are environmentally friendly but the festival itself supports numerous families’ living.

“These artists don’t have MFA and pick up skills from the age of 10 and work alongside their families. No one is born with skills: it’s the time, effort and environment that can help bring life to ability and artistry,” concluded Smrita.

看著神台上穿著美麗服飾的神像雕塑,讓人難以想象背後到底花費了多少人力物力將之制作。Smrita Jain深入探討了傳統印度節日杜爾迦女神節並揭開當中的時尚勞動。

Smrita Jain – Documentary – Adornment Stage

為了慶祝十手女神杜爾迦擊倒名為邁索爾的惡魔並凱旋歸來,達十天長的節日堪比西方的聖誕節。印度人崇拜女神和她周圍的神靈,並會雕塑神像並限於人前供人膜拜。

要讓節日順利舉辦,需要四至五個月的和以家族計的手作人。仔細觀察雕塑,杜爾迦女神的每一隻手臂都有不同的設計和飾物。話雖如此,不同地方的女神像都會不同的服飾 – 視乎制作雕塑的機構的預算。

制作雕塑的方法也可以各有不同:要麼直接將所有圖案雕刻在泥像上;要麼在雕塑制作完成後把另外制作的衣服穿上。制作女神服飾的物料稱之為Shola,為孟加拉西部特有的植物。利用Shola制作的傳統印度服飾紗麗必須帶有稱為kyari圖案,象征女性的子宮,代表孕育新生命的重要性。

創作雕塑,最重要的一環必然是彰顯杜爾迦女神及同伴的光輝 – 這非常考驗手作人的功夫。試想要為十隻手臂的女神穿上衣服並且不能弄斷任何一根手指(每個女神像有50根手指)或任何部分!一個女神像需要數位手作人共同完成,而一位手作人亦會同時幫忙製作好幾個雕塑。

「我的母親在加爾各答長大,她說每位創作女神像的手作人都會制作15至20套女神像。那是他們的命脈,這個手作業亦會代代相傳。我記錄的這位居住在德里的手作人也創作了8至10套雕塑。」

一如其他國家的節日,人們在杜爾迦女神節亦有傳統服飾。主要顏色為黃色、紅色、金色、粉紅色、橙色和藍色,在傳統上不同的日子有規限顏色,但是時至今日已經失傳。

在節日之後,作為慶祝的一部分,所有神像將會被沒入水中。由於布料的原料是植物,處理神像的方法非常環保,同時將大自然的餽贈回歸。

「在這個項目中,我想集中研究這群手作人,他們在這節日中的角色舉足輕重,為節日的形象帶來深遠影響。同時在制作的過程當中,人們心裡也充滿了喜樂的氣氛。」

拍攝過程當中,Smrita遇到了好幾個挑戰:要征詢手作人的同意攝錄制作過程和在「工作室」裡拍攝。所謂的「工作室」,其實只是在路邊一隅用膠片搭起的小空間,Smrita使用膠片相機,在有限的自然光下記錄過程,而所有相片也誒有任何後期加工。

除了文化上的意義之外,杜爾迦女神的時尚精神為印度人賦予意義:除了使用環保的物料之外,更是撐起了無數手作人的生計。

「所有手作人都沒有受過高等教育並從小開始就和家人一起工作,習得手藝。沒有人一生下來就懂得所有技巧,那是透過時間、練習和環境將藝術和文化帶到人們之間。」

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