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INDIA RECYCLED
Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23
May/June 2008
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Write Dope on Pnuk part 53

The clothes get sent to the charity shop and you expect to see them on a hanger the following week. This photographic exhibition followed them on a longer journey.

Oxfam have a sorting centre in Yorkshire where clothes are graded. Some charities might send some clothes to developing countries for local tailors to use and re-sell, with India this is a little more complicated. There, there is a ban on the importing of second hand clothes (I wondered if this was in some sense related to Gandhi's boycott on foreign cloth to stimulate the home industry) so clothes have to be slashed to make them unusable.

At markets in northern India the remnants are sold on to become rags or raw material, designer labels being thrown out as the useless trash that they are. Wollen garments are broken down into fibres (called 'shoddy') and re-spun, but not re-dyed. These then become blankets, a business started in the 1930s. They now get labels such as Neelkanth (which relates to the god Shiva, symbol of destruction but also re-birth).

In New Delhi, in the district around the Ghora Mandir (the Horse Temple) live the Waghri folk, originally from Gujarat. These folk tend to deal in second hand clothes collected from the wealthier sections of the city. Some will be repaired and sold on to poorer Indians. Silk saris that are torn or stained but with gold or silver thread are burned to collect the precious metal. Saris in better condition are re-worked for designs from Indian expatriate communities in Australia, Europe and North America. Smaller remnants are turned into bags, cushion covers and bedspreads, for tourists or exporting for sale at festivals and boutiques.

So, granny's discarded garments you took down to the charity shop and you never saw again, they might have gone on to help distant people help themselves towards a better future.

www.horniman.ac.uk

 

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