Exhibition: Phulkari – The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 9 July 2017

Discover the beauty and cultural significance of phulkari, ornately embroidered textiles from Punjab, a region straddling Pakistan and India. In addition to stunning examples from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, this exhibition features traditional phulkaris from the museum’s collection and high-fashion ensembles by one of India’s leading designers, Manish Malhotra.

Phulkari, meaning ‘flower work’, is a labour-intensive textile made of vibrant silk embroidery on a plain-woven cotton cloth. Deeply rooted in Punjabi life before the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan (which split the Punjab region), this tradition has become a powerful symbol of Punjabi cultural identity.

Usually worn by women as large shawls on special occasions, phulkaris were also made as blankets or as furniture covers or hangings. Women of many religious groups – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs (who consider the Punjab their holy land) – stitched phulkaris, with young girls learning needlework from older female relatives and friends. They often created the embroideries for their dowry, which they brought to their new homes when they married.

Some phulkaris depict animals and village scenes, while others display complex geometric patterns in bold colors conveying good fortune and social status. Whether figurative or geometric, all are rich in symbolism: after the 1947 partition, phulkari textiles became an important symbol for the new nation of Pakistan.

Over the past half century, phulkari techniques and patterns have experienced a revival, especially as a commercial art. As an emblem of pre-partition village life, phulkaris have been celebrated in popular music and videos. More recently, this folk tradition has entered the realm of high fashion through designers such as Manish Malhotra, who recently created a phulkari-based couture collection.

For more information, visit the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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One thought on “Exhibition: Phulkari – The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

  1. I have had a look-through of this exhibition on the museum website and and some e ofthe embroideries look stunning.

    Phulkari is an embroidery art of high skill.

    Please do listen to my talk on youtube which details the journey of the revival of the traditional way of doing phulkari embroidery as I experienced it first hand… This was the first such initiative here and has still not been replicated as far as i know.

    The link: https://youtu.be/gWql1g7onW8

    Regards, Sunaina Suneja New Delhi, India

    On Wed, May 10, 2017 at 3:36 PM, Oxford Asian Textile Group blog wrote:

    > agnesupshall posted: ” Exhibition dates: 12 March – 9 July 2017 Discover > the beauty and cultural significance of phulkari, ornately embroidered > textiles from Punjab, a region straddling Pakistan and India. In addition > to stunning examples from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovi” >

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