New book takes us a step closer to Lucknow – and Chikankari

Chikankari is one of the finest traditional embroideries of India, a symbol of Lucknawi culture and a just released book by an Italian author brings to life the history of this unique craft tradition.

Paola Manfredi’s “Chikankari: A Lucknawi Tradition”, (Niyogi Books/252 pages/Rs 2,495) is in the true sense a book dedicated to the incredible Chikankari style of embroidery, which remains relatively unknown in the west.

The book was jointly launched by activist, author and Indian handicrafts curator Jaya Jaitly; along with fashion designers and film producers, Meera Ali and Muzaffar Ali.

“The book charts the journey of Chikankari with so much care and dedication that it is going to Bible for us. Paola has gone into such great detail to document the craft. I give this book full marks for coming in the horizon and guiding us in the future,” said Muzaffar Ali after unveiling the book.

Born in Italy, Paola Manfredi lived and worked in India for over thirty years. Her beautifully illustrated book showcases unknown gems from personal and public collections, and brings to life the history of this unique craft tradition.

“The book beautifully takes the readers to the lives of the craftsmen as well as the craft. Paola tells us how we can successfully bring the reality to the fore. I am thrilled to see the way this book has come out,” commented Jaya Jaitley.

Combining scholarly approach and design interactions, she has worked with craftspeople and their traditional skills to promote the excellence of South Asian craftsmanship particularly in Aary, Chikankari from Lucknow and Nakshi Kantha from Bangladesh.

The author said that the research of the book involved a tedious journey through the many streets of Lucknow and that she was happy at the way it has come up.

“This book is a product that took many years to be compiled and yet working on it raised many more answers than I was able to find answers to. Chikankari is a very evocative word, it is an expression of Lucknow. It embodies the very idea and concept of aesthetics,” Manfredi shared.

Various chapters of the book describe the mysterious origins of the craft, the range of costumes, the inspirations behind common Chikankari motifs, the time-honored elaborate production process, and the bewildering array of stitches that raised this craft to its status as a truly exceptional art form.

Chikankari appeared in Lucknow in the late 18th century and its exquisite aesthetic and craftsmanship has sustained the tradition to this day, through changing patronage and market trends.

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