Twenty-Five Patch

May, 2019

Twenty-Five Patch

Sajnaben Harijan, age unknown
A brightly colored Dharki or quilt made in India.

Ethnic Group: Marwada Meghwal, a subgroup of the Meghwal ethnic group
Village, City, Region: Sanjod Nagar, Bhuj, Kutch
Quilt Date: 1998
87.5 x 52.5 inches (222 x 133 centimeters) 
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation 2015.045.0001

This work is featured in the exhibition Collecting and Recollecting: Contemporary Quilts in Western India," which is on display through August 18 at the International Quilt Study Center & Musuem. Of this piece, researchers Patricia Stoddard and Martha Wallace write:

Sajnaben Harijan is a member of the largely agricultural Marwada Meghwal ethnic group. She did not attend school as a child. Instead, she learned embroidery starting around age 8 and was an expert by age 15. She learned quiltmaking later, as a married woman, and passed the skill on to her two daughters.

Constructing a dharki (quilt) can take Sajnaben up to two and a half months. She made over 25 dharki for her daughter’s dowry but still has about 150 quilts in her home. This quilt was made “three years before the earthquake”—a reference to the 2001 tremor that destroyed large parts of Gujarat’s Kutch region and killed over 12,000 people there. Sajnaben says that many people in Kutch reckon time based on that traumatic event.

This is a photo of Sajnaben Harijan the maker with her quilt before it came to the museum's collection:

Both Patricia Stoddard and Martha Wallace have long-standing interest and experience in the Indian subcontinent. Stoddard lived in Islamabad, Pakistan for over two years and built a comprehensive collection of Pakistani and Indian ralli quilts (the most common type of quilt in this border region), which now belongs to the IQSCM. Wallace lived in New Delhi, India for three years and operates a business importing textiles to support Indian women’s cooperatives. Both women regularly return to the subcontinent. Their backgrounds in academia (Stoddard) and educational administration (Wallace) informed their systematic approach to an IQSCM-funded research trip to Gujarat in 2015.

Stoddard and Wallace chose western India for their focus because they appreciated that Gujarat’s Kutch and Saurashtra regions have the most diverse and extensive quiltmaking traditions of any part of the country. They secured the help of expert local guides Salim Wazir and Alok Tiwari and, traveling to towns and villages, found that new materials and tools are affecting the ways in which people make quilts. In isolated and rural regions, however, they observed that quilts often follow traditional formats, with maverick quiltmakers occasionally breaking established norms. Stoddard and Wallace shot thousands of photos and interviewed over a dozen quiltmakers, eight of whom are represented here in the form of detailed field notes