An artistic collaboration
between Madhvi Parekh, Manu
Parekh, Karishma Swali
& Chanakya Foundation
“ I recognized that if craft is an expression of the human spirit in
material form, the craftspeople are artists who use the medium of
craft to express their collective identity.”
The exhibition, titled 'Cosmic Garden,' emerges from an ongoing fertile exchange between acclaimed Indian artists Madhvi Parekh and Manu Parekh, in collaboration with Karishma Swali, Artistic Director of Mumbai-based Chanakya School of Craft — a non-profit institute committed to the emancipation of women through craft. Marking its inaugural showcase in Venice, the presentation pays homage to the pluralistic beauty of India’s artisanal legacies and indigenous art traditions. Curated by Paola Ugolini and Maria Alicata, the exhibition is set to be unveiled at the Salone Verde - Art & Social Club in Venice, Italy, from April 20th to November 24th, 2024.
This carefully curated collection embraces a multidisciplinary approach, dismantling entrenched ideological hierarchies within the art world. It casts a spotlight on the contemporary reinterpretation of traditional techniques, transcending conventional boundaries to carve out a fresh artistic vernacular rooted in collective cultural histories. The exhibition features an array of works, including paintings and sculptures, as well as their metamorphosis into a third interdisciplinary medium—hand-embroidery — an art form refined over millennia.
Manu Parekh's art assimilates India's cultural tapestry while embracing elements of Western modernism and abstract expressionism. His vibrant compositions, characterized by broken lines, stripes, crosses, and floral motifs, embody the cosmic harmony of masculine and feminine energies.
On the other hand, Madhvi Parekh's works portray formidable female deities encircled by celestial beings and symbolic representations, inspired from Indian myths and emphasizing the connection between humanity and the divine.
Karishma Swali and 320 highly-skilled artisans from Chanakya conceptualized and interpreted the textile re-imaginings through meticulous needlework embroidery and handcrafting techniques, utilizing organic materials like raw linen, jute, silk, and cotton.
The result becomes a true conceptual act:
a creative dialogue that reinvents the role of the artist and the artisan, and blurs the boundaries between art and craft.
The Atelier: The Living Museum
April 1 2023 – April 22 2023
Chanakya International, Mumbai, India
Physical, spiritual and ecological themes from our natural world, and their implicit interconnectedness have been rooted in ancient and indigenous traditions for centuries. Our affinity for nature — its majestic wonders as well as its boundless mysteries — manifest in organic shapes and forms. Underscoring these thematic notions are a series of crafted artworks imagined by Artistic Director, Karishma Swali, and brought to life by the master artisans of the Chanakya Ateliers. Collectively, they create visual landscapes showcasing the mastery of hand-craftsmanship, reflecting the colours, energy, and harmony of earth, sea, sky and the cosmos.
Kantha hand embroidery on four layered muslin
This inherent talent is present even today, kept alive and vibrant through the guru-shishya tradition of mentoring, the knowledge passed on personally and honed through apprenticeship. Expanding on our rich cultural heritage and a three-decade long creative partnership with Maria Grazia Chiuri, Artistic Director of Dior Women’s Collections, we bring forth a presentation dedicated to the creative spirit of our master artisans.
Through their collective stories, we thread the past, present and the incredible savoir-faire of India’s artisanal legacies. We welcome you to discover eleven schools of hand-craftsmanship brought to life through this artistic collaboration.
Mention the form of craft here
Nabh Raat, Zardozi Technique
Toy Making, Needlepoint Techniques
Mūḷ Māthī / from the roots
April 1 2023 – April 22 2023
Snowball Studios, Mumbai, India
Mūḷ Māthī; From The Roots is a showcase of 22 large-scale textile artworks by award-winning Indian Artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh in collaboration with Dior and Maria Grazia Chiuri, Artistic Director of Dior’s Women’s Collections, and Chanakya Craft Collective and Karishma Swali, Artistic Director of Chanakya Craft Collective. Curated by Asia Society India Centre, as a postscript to an original commission by Maria Grazia Chiuri for the scenography of her Dior Couture spring-summer 2022 runway show, the exhibition presents 22 textile artworks, along with archival material, in an Indian context and for Indian audiences for the first time
The exhibition is an homage to the Parekhs, whose practices have a long-standing relationship with vernacular artistic traditions, an ode to the legacies of embroidery-work and textiles, and a critical reflection on the possibilities of collaborations and patronage in the preservation and sustainability of craft-based artistic work.
(3,600 square feet)
This exceptional series of artworks was created by 320 artisans from the Chanakya Ateliers, as well as female artisans from the Chanakya School of Craft, a non-profit school dedicated to craft, culture, and women's expression, who partnered together for more than three months to embroider 340 square meters (3,600 square feet) of work entirely by hand.
The resulting interpretations become new works in their own right, poised between quotation, stylistic exercise, and interpretation, reactivated by the gesture of craft using the language of embroidery.
The Chanakya x Dior Retrospective
April 1 2023 – April 22 2023
Snowball Studios, Mumbai, India
The exclusive Chanakya x Dior retrospective featured 50 hand-embroidered archival pieces made with Chanakya across 16 couture and prêt-à-porter collections. Each season, Chanakya works collaboratively with the historic maison to innovate across various genres of craft and design to handcraft couture, ready-to-wear, accessories and fine art. To give insight into this process, each dress featured was told through a craft perspective, supported by its miniature design reference, raw materials and contemporary variations of traditional craft techniques.
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ALL THE COLLABORATIONS
Our artistic collaborations pave the way for the master-artisans of the Chanakya ateliers and the graduated women of the Chanakya School of Craft to work collaboratively with celebrated contemporary artists and blur the assumed heirarchies between art and craft.Explore further on www.chanakya.school
Chanakya School of Craft x Marta Roberti for Christian Dior
Chanakya and its artistic director, Karishma Swali unveil exceptional large-scale artworks with the visual artist Marta Roberti on the occasion of Dior’s Fall-Winter 2024 Haute Couture show. Commissioned by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Artistic Director of Dior’s Women’s Collections, the crafted works bring out the connective potential of fibre art, invoking imagery of ancient goddesses and feminine energy to serve as the scenography of the Couture Show.
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Under the stewardship of Chanakya’s Artistic Director, Karishma Swali, 360 artisans from the Chanakya ateliers and Chanakya School of Craft used over 80 hand-embroidery techniques to highlight the textile’s unique capacity for detail, colour, texture. Highlighting the excellence of savoir faire, the works include fine examples of crochet, running stitch, back stitch, satin stitch and honeycomb techniques, leveraging materials such as cotton threads, kaccha resham (raw silk) and lurex to construct an esoteric, immersive environment.
Female goddesses such as Potnia Theròn, Isis and Shitala Mata are accompanied by various animals and set against a vegetal background of palm trees and other plants typical of the Mediterranean.
Marta’s delicate and powerful tribute to the goddesses of the ancient world is further enhanced by the artisans at Chanakya and the Chanakya School, who layer thread upon thread within the works. The harmonious interplay of celestial, animal and human elements is brought to life by joining metal and silk threads to create a mindscape that is both luminous and mysterious; delicate and boundless.
Chanakya School of Craft x Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior
An artistic collaboration with Maria Grazia Chiuri, the Dior Fall show on March 30, 2023 set the stage for another monumental installation by the Chanakya School of Craft — The Toran: an ephemeral, site-specific public artwork, the Chanakya Ateliers and Chanakya School of Craft, under the stewardship of Karishma Swali, imagined the 46-foot-tall installation as a poetic representation of the power of craft and community.
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The Gateway, seen as a symbolic ceremonial entrance to India, serves as a fitting metaphor for this intimate collaboration, drawing from cross-cultural influences, heritage and traditional materials while paying heed to a collective passion for Indian craftsmanship. Drawing on their design vocabulary, the female artisans of the Chanakya School of Craft and the master artisans from the Chanakya Atelier handcrafted The Toran, with layers of social and cultural context, enabling them to express the world in a deeply nuanced yet intuitive way.
The base is made up of natural fibers that capture the purity of their message: a joyful coming together of craft and community. Over 300 master-artisans from the Chanakya Atelier and women artisans from the Chanakya School of Craft worked together over several months, requiring 35,000 hours of handwork to complete this piece, instinctively employing 25 craft techniques including phulkari, mirror work, french knotting, and kantha. Folk iconography inherently linked to artisanal traditions are captured throughout the work, including elephants, mandalas, lotus, the kamadhenu, tigers, and peacocks.
Chanakya School of Craft x Mickalene Thomas for Christian Dior
For the staging of the Dior Haute Couture spring-summer 2023 show, Maria Grazia Chiuri has woven a new creative dialogue with Mickalene Thomas, a legendary African-American artist. Envisioned specifically for this Dior show, her decor epitomizes a new pantheon of women, born out of a conversation dedicated to the importance of black and mixed-race female figures who have become exemplary by choosing to think and act differently.
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Mickalene Thomas’ work explores themes of celebrity, femininity, and power, challenging the male gaze while questioning the predominant canons of art history. She expresses herself through painting and devises collages by mixing printed images, photographs and other material elements, often using iconographies of renowned artists, in order to contest social norms and ideals of feminine beauty over the centuries.
Giant portraits of a series of exceptional public figures – elaborated with embroidery conceived by the Chanakya Ateliers and Chanakya School of Craft on a printed textile base take over the show’ s setting. They are a heterogeneous, eclectic group – a source of inspiration on all continents – who have queried the status quo and achieved incredible feats.
For the Dior spring-summer 2023 haute couture défilé, our Chanakya ateliers and the Chanakya School of Craft embroidered with sequins and diamante the giant portraits of outstanding female figures that occupy the show’s decor. At the convergence of contemporary art and couture, the scintillating ornamentation creates an entrancing interplay of texture and light.
Chanakya School of Craft x Olesia Trofymenko for Christian Dior
Cultural heritage and craft traditions form the main source of inspiration for
Ukrainian artist Olesia Trofymenko, who has dreamed up the set design for the Dior
autumn-winter 2022-2023 haute couture show.
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The floral garlands and wheat crowns were created using cross stitch color layering to capture the depth of the roses while the wheat stems were created with organic threads, couching and braiding. The tree of life is hand embroidered with fine threads in satin stitches, juxtaposed with jute threads in key areas, as well as different knotting and small needlepoint techniques.
Chanakya School of Craft x Eva Jospin for Christian Dior
On the occasion of the Dior Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2021-2022 show, presented at the Rodin Museum on July 5th, 2021, the House of Dior unveiled an exceptional installation by artist Eva Jospin: a forty-meter-long immersive gallery, entirely hand-embroidered in India by the Chanakya atelier and Chanakya School of Craft, based on a unique drawing by the artist.
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Titled Chambre de Soie (Silk Room), the work nods both to the Indian-inspired Embroidery Room at the Palazzo Colonna in Rome and to Virginia Woolf’s feminist manifesto 'A Room of One’s Own.' 320 artisans from the Chanakya Atelier and The Chanakya School of Craft hand craft this dream landscape using 150 variations of hand embroidery techniques and over 400 colours and various 3dimensional braiding techniques to add depth, texture and dimension.
For her monumental creation – representing 350 square meters of embroidery – the master artisans from the Chanakya Atelier, known for preserving excellence in savoir-faire, and the Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai worked for several months to meticulously realize this infinite landscape.
The immense concentration of details continues throughout the entire exhibition, allowing viewers to venture inside the work in a literal sense. Woods, lianas, boulders and imaginary architectures are meticulously embroidered to compose a place conducive to reverie and wandering, like the follies found in Baroque gardens. The lexical field remains that of illusion, and a world – a room of one’s own.
Chanakya School of Craft x Judy Chicago for Christian Dior
It was an honour to work with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Judy Chicago to promote excellence in craft, equality and community with an art installation crafted by the enterprising graduating women at the school. In her awe-inspiring work, Judy Chicago has championed ideas like community and women’s empowerment for decades.
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Dior and Judy Chicago collaborated together with the Chanakya School
of Craft to create 22 immense hand embroidered panels for the Dior
haute couture spring summer 2020 show. The panels embodied freedom
through expression, independence and knowledge and empowerment.
Chanakya School of Craft x Jai Vakeel Foundation for Moonray
Chanakya School of Craft, Moonray, and the Jai Vakeel Foundation came together to create an installation that celebrates the spirit of inclusion titled ‘A Seat at the Table’. Offering a proverbial seat at the table to a series of intricately handcrafted characters, the multimedia work was a sequel to the awareness and fundraising initiative for the Jai Vakeel Foundation.
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Conceptualized and designed by Avantika and Karishma Swali and handmade by the enterprising female students of the Chanakya School of Craft and the master artisans of the Chanakya ateliers, the abstract representations are made with sample fabrics and contemporary interpretations of traditional techniques, including appliqué, satin stitch, cross-stitch, micro-beading, macramé and crochet. The table is a hyper-realistic gesamtkunstwerk, with each of the six table settings made of an assemblage of unique objects, all created with ultra-detailed embroidery.
Chanakya School of Craft x Jai Vakeel Foundation
The Jai Vakeel Foundation, India's oldest and largest not-for-profit, working in the space of Intellectual Disability (ID), partnered with the Chanakya School of Craft to create a powerful collaboration of thought and inclusion. The enterprising women of the school designed and handcrafted bands to amplify the message of inclusion. The Inclusion bands represented a tomorrow that is all inclusive, one where respect, dignity, diversity, inclusion and acceptance co-exist.
Emerging from meaningful creative dialogues, Artistic Director Karishma Swali collaborates with the highly skilled artisans of the Chanakya School of Craft and Chanakya International. Together, they make artworks that transcend the distinctions between art and craft, forging a contemporary language that unlocks the infinite potential of craft.