Pardesi (Turban Untied)

Ishan Khosla

Devi Art Foundation

Devi Art Foundation

During colonial rule, raw cotton from India was supplied to British mills, while finished textiles and garments found their way back to the Indian market.  Such cloth encouraged the replacement of traditional Indian menswear. Babus - Indian men who wore western clothes - came to seen as civilized, wealthy, and powerful.

Today, global companies mass-produce garments in so-called Third-World countries, in controversial work conditions, selling them back to the middle classes in the same countries. Here, people aspire to wear mass-market clothes, such as jeans and T-shirts,which are heavily endorsed by media celebrities and personalities. Equally, a huge number of service staff that crowd cities and towns in these regions, aspire to wear knock-offs of the same global brands that are worn by their well-to-do employers. In India, this situation is very similar to what was seen a century ago.

This series of Indian turban cloths is a comment on the loss of traditional markers of social identity once visible through the use of specific fabrics and motifs. Ishan Khosla, graphic designer and artist, assembles traditional pattern arrangements of the leheriya stripe, the floral buta, and the architectural jaali, with logos of popular brands of western menswear. Block-printed in an earthy palette, these logo-based designs take on a deceptively traditional appearance. The turbans remind us of the dissolution of lineal and community identities, the changing perception of masculinity, and of the loss of a certain social grace that accompanied the flamboyance and power of traditional Indian menswear.

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  • Title: Pardesi (Turban Untied)
  • Creator: Ishan Khosla
  • Date: 2014
  • Location: New Delhi
  • Physical Dimensions: 9.0 x 433.0 inches (each)
  • Type: Photograph
  • Method or Style: Hand block print on khadi cloth
  • Collaborators: Sandeep Kumar
  • Collaborating Institution: Vinay Singh

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