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Beyond Te Papa: Threads of Tradition

Tuesday 20 August 2019, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

$15.00 – $20.00

This event has now sold out, to add your name to the waitinglist email us at [email protected].

Join us on a visual tour of various textiles from different regions of India, where there is a rich handloom tradition since ancient times. Natural fibres, cotton, silk, jute and hemp are woven with its unique dose of regional flavours, culture, traditions, history and personal stories to create extraordinarily intricate and colourful pieces of wearable art.

Joji Jacob and Shani Pillai will guide us through artisanal handlooms of three regions – Gujarat in the West, Bengal in the East and Coromandel Coast in the South.

Gujarat in the west has always been a major trading port and the heart of the textile industry in India. Here we will focus on Patola Ikat from the region of Patan where the silk warp and weft are tied and dyed before being woven. It’s the rarest form of double ikat that’s been woven for generations by a small community of weavers.

Travelling to the east, we’ll encounter Bengal’s specialty textile weaving – the Jamdani technique on fine muslin. Jamdani combines intricacy of design with muted or vibrant colours.

We’ll finish up on the Coromandel Coast in the South, once the primary producer and exporter of sought after chintz to the European market. Here you’ll discover Kalamkari, the very intricate art of hand-painted textiles.

There will be a display of a wide range of exciting textiles, that Joji and Shani have collected during their travels so you can view and enjoy them before or after the talk.


Shani Pillai and Joji Jacob’s roots are in India, they are Kiwis at heart, proud Wellingtonians & honoured to be Friends of Te Papa.

Shani is of South Indian heritage and has textiles weaving in her DNA from her father’s side of the family. Her mother tongue is Tamil, she also speaks fluent English, Bahasa Malaysia and understands Cantonese.  Joji’s origins are in Kerala. He speaks fluent English, Hindi and Malayalam (his mother tongue), understands several Indian languages, and has experienced the cultures of several regions of India due to his father’s varied postings in the Indian Army. Their boutique tour business is fast gaining international recognition, with Chanel Fashion House being their latest client.

They are passionate about their cultural heritage and the traditions and arts passed down through the generations. This was distilled when they learnt of Benarasi brocade weavers committing suicide due to cheap Chinese imports robbing them of their traditional livelihood, it was the catalyst that made them decide to support these communities of artisans. This passion has propelled them to off the beaten track villages in different parts of India, through their Threads of Tradition textiles tours, en route meeting and seeing master textile artisans at work. They support selected community development groups that are helping and inspiring communities to develop and maintain their traditional livelihoods.

Fellow collectors have entrusted their collections to Shani and Joji so they can be showcased and shared widely with other textile lovers.


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Tuesday 20 August 2019
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
$15.00 – $20.00
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Angus Room, L3
Te Papa, 55 Cable Street, Te Aro
Wellington, Wellington 6011 New Zealand
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Friends of Te Papa
(04) 381 7051