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Kasuti - Indian Origins of Blackwork - Maya Heath - 2012

Kasuti - Indian Origins of Blackwork - Maya Heath - 2012

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Published by Maya Heath
Research paper tracing the historical origins of blackwork to Medieval India - includes comparison with Egyptian work of the period - with 9 pages of transcribed/graphed folk patterns
Research paper tracing the historical origins of blackwork to Medieval India - includes comparison with Egyptian work of the period - with 9 pages of transcribed/graphed folk patterns

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Maya Heath on Dec 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/25/2014

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Kasuti
 – 
Origins of Blackwork in India
1 by Safiya bint Suleiman al-Mualima, O.L. mka Maya Heath
~ Kasuti ~ Indian Origins of Blackwork 
by Safiya bint Suleiman al-Mualima, O.L.mka Maya Heath
Summary -
Kasuti (also spelled
kasauti
and
kasooti
)is aform of counted thread embroidery thatoriginated in southern and central India betweenthe 8th century CE in what is today known as theState of Karnataka. The word
Kasuti
derivesfrom
kai
meaning
hand 
, and
 suti
meaning
cotton
, that is, handwork done in cotton. It canalso be a derivative of the word
kashida
, aword derived from Persian meaning
embroidery
.This period (the Chalukyas Period) is regardedas a golden age in the history of South India andKarnataka. There was a tremendous revival of the arts and culture, the women of the courtswere well versed in 64 arts and one of them wasKasuti. More recently it is theorized to have been practised by the Lambani tribe who migrated toGujarat from Rajasthan and then down to theSouth in Karnataka during this time.Kasuti was brought to Egypt by way of the Indian Ocean trade routes sometime inthe 12
th
-13
th
Century CE (Ayyubid Period). Just as Europe can trace the origins of its blackwork traditions to 13
th
century Egypt, so Egypt can trace the origins of the art totextiles brought there by way of the Monsoon Trade Routes. It is still practiced today as atraditional women
s craft in Maharashtra and Karnataka, particularly in the cities of Dharwad, Hubli and Bijapur. Its present day revival is due to the efforts of a few NGO'sand some women craft activities.
Part I
 – 
Historical and Social Background
Extent of Badami Chalukya Empire, 636CE
 – 
740 CE (includes Gujarat andKarnataka)
 
Kasuti
 – 
Origins of Blackwork in India
2 by Safiya bint Suleiman al-Mualima, O.L. mka Maya Heath
The Monsoon Cycle and Indian Ocean Trade
 – 
Monsoon Wind CycleTrade Winds
The monsoon winds in the Indian ocean start every year near the end of May in the Arabian off the coast of Somalia driven by the warming andcooling or the Asian landmass. From May to September they blowoutward from Africa passes in a half circle that brings it very near tothe Arabian Peninsula before it goes in a south-easterly direction toIndia. From October to April the direction is reversed blowing back west.This cycle is also called The Trade Winds.
Fig. 1 The Indian Ocean Trade Routes
Indian Ocean Trade2
nd
Century BCE-3
rd
Century CEEgypt
 – 
Ptolemaic toRoman Eras
As early as150 BCE, Greek sailor Hippalus identified the monsoonwindcycle. By Roman times, Roman ports on the Red Sea such asBerenike and Quseir el-Qadim served as bases to funnel the goodsfrom the India then trough ports through the ports of EudaemonArabia and Ocelis in Aden, up the Red Des to Berenike or MyasHarmos, then across the eastern desert to Koptos. Goods were thentransported by boat up the Nile northward to Cairo, Alexandria andthe Mediterranean. The wealthy Roman empire had a seeminglyinsatiable appetite for Asian spices, incense, jewels, silks and fineluxury goods. This access to Asian luxuries came at a substantialcost. The Red Sea ports had very limited sources of water and noviable agricultural land. They were also under constant threat fromsea pirates and land-based brigands so that a constant military presence had to be maintained both at the ports themselves and for thecaravans crossing the desert. The expense of maintaining the portswas only sustainable as long as there was a market for the luxuriesthe traders provided. As the Roman Empire went into decline in the
 
Kasuti
 – 
Origins of Blackwork in India
3 by Safiya bint Suleiman al-Mualima, O.L. mka Maya Heath
As early as150 BCE, Greek sailor Hippalus identified the monsoonwindcycle. By Roman times, Roman ports on the Red Sea such asBerenike and Quseir el-Qadim served as bases to funnel the goodsfrom the India then trough ports through the ports of EudaemonArabia and Ocelis in Aden, up the Red Des to Berenike or MyasHarmos, then across the eastern desert to Koptos. Goods were thentransported by boat up the Nile northward to Cairo, Alexandria andthe Mediterranean. The wealthy Roman empire had a seeminglyinsatiable appetite for Asian spices, incense, jewels, silks and fineluxury goods. This access to Asian luxuries came at a substantialcost. The Red Sea ports had very limited sources of water and noviable agricultural land. They were also under constant threat fromsea pirates and land-based brigands so that a constant military presence had to be maintained both at the ports themselves and for thecaravans crossing the desert. The expense of maintaining the portswas only sustainable as long as there was a market for the luxuriesthe traders provided. As the Roman Empire went into decline in the3
rd
century CE, the market for the goods declined and vanishedmaking the maintenance of the ports unsustainable. Although someminimal trade did continue, the ports went into decline and wereeventually abandoned. Egypt turned economically and culturally tothe Mediterranean and the Byzantine Empire.
Renewal of Red SeaTrade7
th
-13
th
century CE
The Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642 BCE brought a new period of order and stability. The first Arab rules reopened the old Roman Canalwith the Nile. The Red Sea trade resumed with the rise of the Fatimidrulers in the mid-10
th
century CE who reopened the routes connectingthe Red Sea with the Nile Valley. Trade continued from this timeforward establishing Egypt as an economic force and cultural hub for Indiangoods.With the fall of Bagdad to the Mongols in 1258 CE, expanding the RedSea/Indian Ocean trade routes became even more advantageous. Therising power and affluence of the Fatimid Caliphate (909
 – 
1171 CE)stabilized Egypt and set it in an excellent position to become the hub of the Muslim world, filling the vaccum of both power and commerce leftin the absence of Syria. The Ayyubid dynasty (1174
 – 
1250 CE) further consolidated the region. With the strength of a stabile government tosupport the necessary ports and caravan trails, the Indian Ocean routesupplied a thriving demand for luxury goods such as incense and spices,funneled through Egypt
Trade in Textiles
From both Roman and Arabic periods, we have an abundance of Indiancloth fragments and document verifying a thriving trade in textiles,especially cotton. Although textiles did not constitute the bulk of commercial shipments, they made up some part of it, and surviving

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