Working with traditional craftspeople presents some unique opportunities of creating customised gifts for friends and family. For my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday I wanted to make something special and memorable. In India 60th birthday is called shastipurti and is considered an important landmark in one’s life.
One evening I was attending a talk on the traditional art form of Kavad from Basi in Rajasthan, when I thought of making one for my mother-in-law. Kavad is a small mobile shrine made of wood and painted with images and stories of the local gods and goddesses. It is box with multiple folding doors, as the doors open the story unfolds. It is carried by bards from village to village who use it as an aid in telling stories. This is a traditional craft being passed on from father to son for generations. I thought of telling the story of my mom-in-law’s life through this craft form.
Mangi Lalji an experienced Kavad maker, who is known for introducing new themes into the craft form, consented to collaborate with me. I gave him a broad storyline and some images for reference. It was interesting to see his interpretation of the narrative; he included local customs and traditional ceremonies for celebrating the 60th birthday.
In one of the scenes he depicted my mother-in-law and her best friend in a plane although no such incident occurred. He combined her traveling around the world with spending time with her best friend, maybe a suggestion of what she can possibly do in the future. He even gave the work a title “Sasuma ka Kavad” – Mother-in-law’s shrine!