Medha Bhatt is a textile designer by training, and an artist, an environmentalist, a craft-researcher, and a maths tutor by passion. Her interests are varied and range from working on issues related to womens’ empowerment to initiating “The Bug Club” for children to create awareness about natural history and our environment. She is a graduate of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and is currently pursuing undergraduate studies in Sociology. She is the Founder of “First Forest,” which creates up-cycled art and craft products from household and tailor discards and develops innovative green solutions towards ‘Zero Waste’. She has been part of Pattanam Archaeological Excavations and has presented her ethnographic research on Trade beads & Bead-work of Gujarat at the British Museum, London in 2012 and at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Vancouver, Canada in 2018 and Savannah, Georgia in 2016. She is also a recipient of the INTACH-UK Project Grant for this research in 2013.
The Narrative Art of the Unlettered Women of Saurashtra:
A Study on the Transforming Status of Kathi Women entrenched in Bead-work of the 20th century
The women bead-stringers of 15th century strung the Venetian glass beads in Murano streets. The beads travelled to the Slave markets of Ujiji in Africa where bead-changers converted them as a commodity of economic exchange. From currency, beads reached the artistic hands of the Kathi women of Saurashtra, to create dowry textiles, the well-known socio-cultural textile tradition of Gujarat, India.
As a researcher belonging to the Kathi community, this study began with my great -grandmother’s
beaded bag, I inherited as part of dowry textiles. It highlights the unique synergy of the makers’s mind equipped with creative observation, artistic pursuit and a sophisticated sense of mathematics by the unlettered Kathi women. The beadwork narratives illustrate the socio-cultural influences and the transforming status of Kathi women from 18th-21st century.
It also reflects on the neglect generated by a frustrated economy, lack of appreciation for heritage and loss of artistic competence, leading to the degeneration of art and proposes its revival by instilling community ownership and pride.