Nilima Sheikh’s Rozgar series draws from a 19th century manuscript depicting professions in Kashmir. Sheikh recreates figures of labourers and tools, by hand on tracing paper. She articulates her understanding of miniature painting traditions and skills and layers her works with textual references to reflect on contemporary socio-political and cultural discourses. Sensitive to the historical and ideological locations of the artisan, the absorption of ‘crafts’ as raw materials into ‘art’ as well as the continuity of labour, Sheikh resignifies circulating West/Central and South Asian lineages under the signs of the artisanal imprint, artisanal labour and the production of beauty. The hand-painted or stenciled artisanal patterns and stylised motifs that recur in Sheikh’s work, especially from the late 1990s, have a trans-regional referent in the vegetal and geometric ornament of architecture, folio painting, and block-printed textiles or pottery in which the artisanal stencil joined early commerce to later bazaar aesthetics, and indexes the gendered tension between domestic craftwork by women and the more male bazaar form.
The works were featured as part of the exhibition 'Connecting Threads: Textiles in Contemporary Practice'. The exhibition was curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta and Puja Vaish and attempts to trace textile practices, traditions and histories in Contemporary Indian Art.