Desert Traditions
…where new journeys into life, tradition & culture begin

The Colours of Life

snip_20120201AColours speak
they shout they sing for
and for all who
care to see.






Colour my days, Bagru 2011

Fifty thousand images in my iPhoto library and still counting, still sorting, naming, categorising, filing and then I surrender to the uncertainty principle. Does the image go under India, landscape, mood, person, date, event or ??? Today I sorted new images into colours because there was Rajasthan sizzling in the line up, the line down, the line across – leaping off the screen in bursts of the hottest pink, the most fiery of red, most incandescent orange – sitting under a lone tree in a monochromatic landscape (left), gossiping in alley ways (below) and leaping off the vegetable vendor’s cart in a shower of marigolds (below).


Somewhere between Bagru and Udaipur, 2011

Then bored I leave the images to sort it out for themselves and begin to unpack, unfold and undo shelves and boxes of textiles in my would-be (if I had time) studio. Years of collecting for the rainy day confront me – the rainy day that arrived sometime last year, turned into weeks and may last into months or even seven years as I am told by Elizabeth who says she has heard that it’s an aboriginal prediction.

Anyway,  prediction, climate change, el nino whatever – the big wet has rendered all that I own damp to the touch and impregnated with mustiness – a smell I attach to my grandmother’s blanket box closed to the air after she went electric. I also itch. Sometime between Mallorca and Manly I developed an allergy triggered by things I love – our couch that malingered in storage for five years, a denim jacket washed several times and stil refuses to surrender its spores, my raincoat rarely worn and now in daily use, cushions, jeans, old clothes (just in case I get slim again), barely used beach towels – all set me off – and most tragic of all the beloved textiles are the worst. Shawls, rugs, quilts, embroideries – the accumulation of a lifetime’s affair with colour, texture, pattern – set my skin on fire. Today, it does not quite rain and I must liberate as many as I can into the fresh air, or wash, dry or even discard if I dare to or can bear to. Or simply take another antihistamine!

And speaking of odours – the parcel finally arrived containing the pieces ordered by my last tour group who fell in love with the Kambira stitches of Hodko, learned how to create them and had to own a piece or two. The green stepped running stitch on two shades of red and black on two shades of yellow were too much to resist. I unpicked the stitching (I kept the calico for another rainy day), untied the blue plastic bag and released the pieces. Colour spilled out along with the scent of the Banni, of pastoral wanderings and moonlit buffalo milking. Airing may diminish ( if one wants to) this endearing scent that lingers somewhere between the solid nose of fresh buffalo milk, the earthy tones of dried dung, the woody fragrance of cooking fires with a strong base note of human endeavour! One might dream of mud-mirrored, earth-floored, thatch-roofed Bhungas while sleeping under such a quilt even if one had never been there!


Western mastery /mistressy – Beth wins! Hodko 2011


A rare moment of silent concentration – calm before chaos! Sumar Kaka’s home, Hodko 2011

I’ll be there in person next week. I itch for India but I do not itch in India even in the sog of monsoon – Indian spores seem to agree with me. I’ll pick up the rest of the Kambira pieces and watch out for flashes of Kachchh colour in the landscape – hues not at all Rajasthani. Regional differences! And for those of you who know him, I’ll be dancing at Kuldip’s most colourful wedding and very happy to carry your greetings. Next blog after that then! Watch this space.