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Tribal Revival – Contemporary Perspective to Traditional Craft

Designs from our native Indian tribal folk are a rage the world over, from textile weaving to jewelry and from embroideries to motifs. Tribal India was never cooler! You can see glimpses of it peaking from all corners of the world – adorning celebrities or models on the ramp. Do you recall Rajasthani bangles adorning the arms of models at Paris Fashion Week at a show by Jean Paul Gaultier ? He said in an interview later that his inspiration was not from royalty but the tribal gypsies of Rajasthan!

Jean Paul Gaultier Indian influence – Gypsies of Rajasthan via Jean Paul Gaultier

While the West has embraced it, a host of designers and fashion influencers are now embracing Indian tribal art forms and designs in their creations. Personally, I have a fascination for learning about art and craft forms and feel passionately about their revival. In this series of Tribal revival, I would attempt to bring any one art and craft form to you, and how creative designers/ artisans are reinterpreting the traditional designs.

Every tribe in India (and possibly the world over) has a distinct style of jewelry making and are made of products that are available locally. Their unique motifs and patterns hold a distinct rustic and earthy charm.  The unrefined look of their jewelry is something that attracts people most, the essence of which has been captured by some jewelry designers to create unique jewelry pieces with a contemporary twist.

One such designer who caught my eye is Sutopa Parrab. An architect by profession, Sutopa practiced architecture for many years before dedicating herself to jewellery design. She reinterprets traditional tribal jewellery giving it a contemporary touch whereby traditional designs and techniques are reconfigured to offer new meaning and expressions. She is fascinated by tribal forms and ethnic styles from various cultures around the world and weaves the elements together in her distinct signature style.

Sutopa works closely with various artisans from different parts of India who specialise in particular styles or techniques in an attempt to revive some of the ancient techniques that are in danger of dying out. She uses ‘dialoguing’ between various artists across the country as a tool to generate new ideas and offer new perspectives. In today’s corporate world, brainstorming meetings attempt to do the same, where people often come up with new ideas that may be termed innovation or an amalgamation of a few old ideas. What I found extremely fascinating was that she strings together the banjara styled jewellery with dokra casting technique and the threads/twines for stringing the jewelry traditionally made by “patvas” of Rajasthan.  An aspiring artisan herself, Sutopa has been learning silver-smithing techniques in Canada and Australia for over 20 years. Under the brand name tribal-chic, currently three of her collections, |ärt-wərk|, Boho and Banjara, have been exhibited in Australia and India. She says what captivates her imagination the most during the extensive travel she does to tribal areas “is the way the villagers casually go about their daily chores wearing outrageously spectacular clothing and gorgeous chunky jewellery, head to toe!” Here’s a glimpse from her lovely collections, especially for you!












While this is such a gorgeous collection, what it also does is highlight the craft form in the mainstream and brings us in touch with Indian tribal art forms, some of which are not being passed on to the new generation due to the paucity of demand! I wouldn’t say you wear tribal jewellery everyday, but sometimes, do your bit for the ‘Tribal Revival‘.


XO, Nupur


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