Fabric of India

Up Your Street subscribers enjoyed each other’s company at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the galleries dedicated to showing off historical textile artefacts and antiquities pertaining to the trade and manufacture of Indian fabric. One of us reckoned that this is where the cloth ended up having been displayed at the Great Exhibition of Britain 1851

I just checked what The 1851 one was all about:-


“Forgan says of the Exhibition that “Large, piled-up ‘trophy’ exhibits in the central avenue revealed the organisers’ priorities; they generally put art or colonial raw materials in the most prestigious place. Technology and moving machinery were popular, especially working exhibits.” She also notes that visitors “could watch the entire process of cotton production from spinning to finished cloth. Scientific instruments were found in class X, and included electric telegraphs, microscopes, air pumps and barometers, as well as musical, horological and surgical instruments.”]

Today stuff was crammed in and there was much reading to be done. Soft music was piped through and even more spiritual notes seeped through as we gawped at the golden threads and beetle-red cloth.

None of us experienced an overwhelming feeling of awe. We’d last met up at the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” experience/happening/floor show in the very same rooms. Nothing matched that. We’re all old enough to have been down the markets, into Green Street, Brick Lane, Walthamstow  and seen the rolls of fabric sold by cheery Asians calling us “darlin'” and “duckie”. We’d been to indigo-dyeing and Asian textile patterns and designs workshops and we wear Pashminas and glittery scarves. We all live in multi-cultural parishes and have done for years. A few of us have been to India and soaked up the religious and the colourful first hand. Some of us are Indian, Mauritian, Trinidadian. I’ll remember the massive wall-hanging found dumped on a New York side -walk, now displayed in its majesty in an alcove at Fabric of India.

I’ll remember the Christian tapestry with Jesus sporting a non-European visage.

And the fact that one of our party’s daughter-in-law has an installation in the garden.

The beauty of the exhibition was not lost on us and we agreed that the outing was a privilege.

The October sun was sometimes warm and we sat in the garden at The V&A and ate our packed lunches watching the pigeons on the tables and the crane above the roof.

Thank you again V&A.