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All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Gypsy ornaments, catwalks and the power of the Goddess

The handicrafts of indigenous groups across the world are the most visible expressions of their unique cultures, a showcase for unusual imagination and supreme skill.

The myriad ethnic and tribal cultures of India have developed an elaborate design lexicon for numerous hand-made crafts, in particular ornaments. These are fashioned from a variety of materials - metal, fibres, leather and fabric – used primarily or injudicious combinations to give them a distinct identity that can be instantly associated with a particular ethnic group.

The Lambanis are a nomadic tribe that is assumed to hail from western India, the regions that constitute Rajasthan, Northwest Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Being an intrepid community, they can be spotted as far south in the states of Karnataka and Telangana.  No matter where the Lambanis are instantly recognizable by their colourful clothing and exquisite jewellery.

The making and wearing of ornaments and jewellery in Indian culture reflected femininity as symbolized through the goddess that resided in every woman. This is still very much how the tribal communities of India perceive ornamentation and the role of jewellery in a woman’s life.

The elaborate creations of the Lambanis exemplify this in singular and vivid ways. Lambani women view the craft of jewellery as an act of empowerment enhanced through their spiritual faith systems going back in time. They use silver, copper and white metal to fashion very intricate ornaments by hand. These are renowned for their impressive finish, making the Lambanis a perfectionist tribe sought after by designers and couturiers exploring offbeat yet striking accessories to adorn their collections.

This confluence of the traditional and the contemporary is shaping a renaissance of India’s indigenous arts and crafts, being both a tribute to native creativity and a gift to posterity.

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