Khadija Aziz: Fragments of the Kashmiri Shawl
As part of the digital component of Gathering, the Textile Museum partnered with the collective Mending the Museum. Khadija Aziz was one of six artists invited to interpret pieces from the Textile Museum’s collection.
As part of the digital component of Gathering, the Textile Museum partnered with the collective Mending the Museum. Khadija Aziz was one of six artists invited to interpret pieces from the Textile Museum’s collection. Khadija created a series of digital jigsaw puzzles in response to Kashmiri shawls in the collection. Learn more about the Mending the Museum project here.
This artwork is a series of four interactive digital jigsaw puzzles that offer insight into the consequences of fragmentizing the Kashmiri shawl’s weaving process. My first thought when I held the corner of a shawl at the Textile Museum of Canada was, “How could someone carry this much weight?” Once known for being so fine they could pass through a finger ring, Kashmiri shawls became coarse and heavy after their method of production changed to meet the European market demands while also competing with Europe’s imitation shawl industry in the 19th century. The new production method included weaving fragments of a shawl on several looms, cutting apart motifs, then stitching them together into a rectangle or square shawl using almost-invisible stitches. Some shawls were made of around as many as 1600 pieces of woven cloth! The new weight and texture were not the only change in the shawls’ characteristics; there is speculation that new patterns and colour choices in the shawls were changed to appeal to the European market. After competing with Europe’s imitation shawl industry that produced lower quality shawls in higher numbers, Kashmir’s shawl industry eventually collapsed, killing generations of skilled weavers.
The images in these puzzles are those I captured during my visit to the Textile Museum’s Collections. I invite viewers to “look” more closely at the shawls by piecing the fragmented visual and written information together. By offering a playful learning experience, I hope to bring more light to the global transformation of the Kashmiri shawl.