At India Art Fair, Miniature Dresses by Bushra Waqas Khan Explore Questions of Colonialism and the Female Body

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The designs, shapes and silhouettes of the clothes are centered on an imperial past, serving as a strong reminder of the impact of colonialism on Pakistan. “If you look at the patterns on the stamp paper, they don’t seem to be from that region. Remove the star and crescent emblems, remove the ‘Pakistan’ text written on it, and everything else is Western,” she says. “Similarly, clothes are a fusion of cultures. They represent a mix of who we are.

A feminist and aesthete, Khan has also worked on a collection called “Leftovers”, where she reuses unused pieces of fabric from other garments that would otherwise be discarded. “A Well-Loved Slice Of Leftovers,” a silk and organza dress sewn with fabric salvaged from her earlier works, is close to her heart. “I felt ‘left out’ so many times, in terms of being a woman,” she says. “It’s a feeling that a lot of women deal with, because they’re often the last people think of.” The collection is therefore a nod to sisterhood, reflecting how “beautiful leftover pieces can come together to create something magical and awe-inspiring,” she says.

Each one-of-a-kind garment takes Khan and his team of skilled artisans at least two and a half months to construct. As of the day we speak, she has just finished making a Lilliputian coat that resembles a sherwani, with its crisp, stark lines evoking memories of ancient cloth armor worn in 13th-century Europe. “You’re the first to see this,” she said with a smile, twirling the long-sleeved frock coat on a mock voyageur. Titled ‘The Leftover Gambeson’, it was made from a patchwork of spare printed fabrics and is due to be exhibited at the IAF later this month.

‘Barcode’ in organza and boning.

Rafay Antwerp

Two dresses that will also be on display at the fair are ‘Barcode’ and ‘Medallion’. ‘Barcode’, which is a high-necked dress with a dizzying explosion of ruffles on its skirt, was made using only barcode snippets taken from the affidavit stamp paper. “Barcode strips encode information such as ownership and identification,” Khan explains. She therefore uses the barcode to highlight the importance of embracing individuality in society. ‘Medallion’, on the other hand, is an elegant princess dress that bears a pinch of the crescent-star oval signifier. Khan, who is shaping a solid body of work right now, is looking forward to IAF 2022. “It will be my first art fair, that one in India too,” she says. “I’m really excited about this.”

The 13th edition of India Art Fair will take place from April 28 to May 1 at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi

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