SOAS University of London

New Brunei Gallery exhibition: Baghs - Abstract Gardens

30 June 2021
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SOAS’s Brunei Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition 'Baghs - Abstract Gardens' of baghs and phulkaris, domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab from 13 July - 25 September 2021. Most of these shawls were embroidered by young girls and women for weddings and other ceremonies. The exhibition will show some exceptional and historical head coverings from the Karun Thakar collection.

These domestic embroideries were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women, there was also an export market for them in the 19th century. 

Bagh ‘garden’ and phulkari, ‘flower-work’ are cotton head coverings that were made in pre-partition Punjab (the historical region that now includes Pakistan Punjab including the further northern edge of Hazara and part of the modern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh). Women carried out the cotton picking and spinning which would then be hand woven into coarse cotton cloth called khaddar. Rangarez, dyers would then dye the cotton to various red colours as well as indigo. All the embroidery was done from the back by counting threads in darning stitch using floss silk (heer). This technique was perfect for showing most of the silk in the front as only a single thread would be caught in the back. The front surface would show a much longer float of the thread, giving the traditional stitch by building solid blocks of parallel rows of darning stitches. 

On display will be over thirty examples of these shawls ranging from golden silk and red abstracted designs covering the entire surface of the pieces to more sparse floral embroidery work. Some examples showing architectural and figurative elements from Eastern Punjab regions will also be on show. 

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This is the third collaboration between Brunei Gallery, SOAS and Karun Thakar, the previous two shows were; ‘African Gaze - Hollywood; Bollywood and Nollywood Film Posters from Ghana’ and ‘African Textiles’ both in 2019. 

Book your free tickets using the online booking system via the website from 6 July onwards. Please note that you can book up to one week in advance, and a minimum of 12 hours before you visit.

For more information on this exhibition, please visit the Brunei Gallery webpage

For further information, contact: