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A Boldly Patterned Textile Reveals A Complex Cultural History

L’Aviva Home’s latest collection draws inspiration from the intricate patterns adorning the mud huts of India’s Hazaribagh tribe.

In the tribal villages of Hazaribagh in Northeastern India, facades of mud huts are adorned with intricate floral and vine patterns painted by local women using a dark manganese coating and a pale kaolin clay. In her new Khovar Collection, Laura Aviva transposes these bold patterns onto fabrics and wallpapers as a way to preserve the traditional art, both economically and culturally.

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Aviva first came across the clay murals in an issue of World of Interiors featuring the photography of Deidi Von Schaewen. “They basically have traced the mud paintings on the homes back to the Mesolithic rock art in the region, so they’ve been doing this every season for a very long time,” says Aviva. “The art that we’re using [for the pattern] is the black and white matrimonial rite of passage painted in January for the marriage season.” Each monsoon season the patterns on the facades get washed away, and each January they’re re-painted for the festivities.

The number of mud paintings have been dwindling with each passing year. The government has never been very supportive of the tribal art (“the Indian government looks upon the homes as backwards,” says Aviva.), nor are they interested in helping to preserve the tradition. And as their agricultural society gets overrun by coal mining and deforestation, the Hazaribagh women no longer have the luxury to spend time on the houses. “They need to survive in a different market economy,” Aviva says.

That’s where L’Aviva Home comes in. The New York-based studio commissioned women in the area to paint three textile patterns–essentially translating their house facade patterns to fabric. Working through a local co-op, L’Aviva pay the women royalties for each yard of the fabric sold, giving the community a cut as well. This, Aviva hopes, will help preserve the tradition by freeing up some of the women’s time and supporting the culture. “We also want to incentivize them to have pride in what they’re doing and to see that it’s recognized in the larger world,” says Aviva.

The Khovar collection launches next week, at which time the fabric ($150) and wallpaper will be available on L’Aviva Home’s website.

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About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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