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Thursday, June 8 • 5:00pm - Saturday, June 10 • 7:00pm
Gota: Lineage of Adornment

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Gota is an ornamental embroidery technique which originates in pre-colonial India. It traces its lineage through a cross cultural fascination between the Mughals and the Persians, both being uninvited guests to the land. This shared interest in embellishment created a fertile ground for the development of gota in India where materials and labor were of access. Gota as an articulated technique and craft was pursued by the local artisans of Rajasthan. Overtime, it became prevalent across the subcontinent as a form of adornment made of gold and silver ribbons that was often used by the royalty and the rich. The use of precious metal and intricate hand work made it accessible only to the wealthy class, where the technique was used on elaborate dresses for occasions, especially weddings. For those of less wealth, these dresses would cost a lifetime’s savings and possibly even debt to its owners. They were typically bought as a wedding dress for the bride that would eventually become a precious object of inheritance for many generations. Gota here becomes an object that is encoded with power as it is typically handed from woman to woman, sometimes maintaining hierarchies, occasionally disrupting them.

Gota is an appliqué in embroidery using gold and silver ribbons onto fabrics such as cotton, chiffon and silk. It has distinct pleating, twisting or folding style markers which make up its visual language. Elements such as peacocks, paisleys, and floral features are often pre-made before being applied to the fabric. This image-making creates a continuous form that is unique to its location on the fabric such as corner, border, edge, and/or centerpiece. The technique of designing individual forms prior to hand stitching them on fabric allows for easier maintenance and repair. The threads of ribbons are made of precious metals and do not lose their sheen for long periods of time. These qualities promote the artifacts to live across generations with care and shared cultural memory.

This installation will explore gota through the practice of critical object making. Being gifted gota by our mothers, we are amidst learning and finding our personal relationships to these artifacts of history and inheritance. Gota, in this context can be defined as a boundary object (Star and Greisemer): identifiable and fluid. Gota as an artifact is flexibly concrete enough to connect us across space, time, consciousness, memories and borders. Through this critical making we aim to unlearn the relationship between our geographical affiliations and our sense of being; and rather seek that inner common body that learnt this skill generations ago. Our aim is to explore shared cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood and borders, both real and imagined, imposed and inherited in the neo-colonial Indian subcontinent.


Nida Abdullah

Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute

Swati Piparsania

Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute

Thursday June 8, 2023 5:00pm - Saturday June 10, 2023 7:00pm EDT
Design Center (2nd Floor)