Jugalbandi is a series of exhibitions that feature Australians and Indians who are inspired by or have their work produced in the other’s country. It explores the creative potential in craft and design exchange, particularly how two very different cultures might complement each other. This is still a growing area of exchange, so the exhibition plays an important role in developing future partnerships. In particular, it opens up debate about the platform for collaboration that encourages both mutual respect and creative energy.
Nowadays referring to a musical dialogue between different traditions, ‘jugalbandi’ is literally translated into English as ‘entwined twin’. In the pre-history of Gondwana, India and Australia were once physically connected in a single landmass. The challenge of this exhibition is to think how they might re-connect culturally.
Jugalbandi’s first iteration was at the College of Fine Art Gallery at University of New South Wales. In this instance, Australia seemed placed in the role of patron, seeking to support the fragile future of India’s skilled artisans. It posed the question of what stake might one culture have in the survival of another’s traditions? How does India fill the gaps that exist in Australian culture, and vice versa? As no culture is sufficient to itself, we turn to the world in order to trade our differences.
In terms of the collaborations featured in Ahmedabad, a common experience is the difference of value accorded to craftsmanship. Often Australian designers try to accentuate the handmade by creating irregularities in production, which may be seen by some as mistakes. For instance, a fashion designer might ask a block printer to deliberately make a mis-registration. From the Indian side, this can be seen as out of keeping with the time-honoured values of the craft. From the Australian side, these ‘mistakes’ are a sign of spontaneous self-expression. While from one side, the designer can be seen as disrespectful; from the other perspective the artisan appears to be stubborn. The challenge of projects like Jugalbandi is to go beyond these fixed positions and see how the two modes of chance and precision, innovation and tradition, might be complementary.
Australia finds itself in a long queue of Western designers seeking to work with Indian artisans. But the West is just as diverse as India. At the risk of gross overgeneralisation, those from USA offer great business acumen, while the Europeans are savvy designers. Though a smaller population, Australia has the post-colonial experience which makes it more sensitive to the different interests at stake in any encounter between tradition and modernity. We hope that this has a modest but defined role to play in ensuring