Sunday, October 28, 2018

The man behind transformation of Mumbai airport's Terminal 2: Rajeev Sethi

Having served for two decades as the headquarters of Rajeev Sethi's Asia Heritage Foundation, also the site of his recent exhibition, this tumbledown warren of rooms upon rooms, of rooms above rooms, filled with examples of Indian craft, of its ingenuity and improvisatory genius, is now being given up to the bulldozers. Everything here must be in a box by the end of the month. The building, in Delhi's South Extension, has been open for what Sethi calls a "public stocktaking", an opportunity for people to examine for themselves contemporary objects-from jackets and saris to sofas, lampshades, toys, and jewellery, made using a deep repository of traditional skills and knowledge. These artisans are, Sethi points out, "content creators" and "in a knowledge economy, it's their skills we need to harness, skills the rest of the world cannot match".
Sethi's demeanour, soft-spoken and solicitous, he slips into comfortable conversation with everyone who mills around the office, passing billionaires, academics, office staff, journalists, gawping visitors, Japanese tourists who recognise him as the man behind the art at their hotel, weavers, musicians, acrobats and puppeteers-belies a sprawling career. This is not to say he's parochial. Quite the opposite. He's been everywhere. He's apprenticed with and been mentored by the likes of S.W. Hayter, Ray and Charles Eames, Pierre Cardin, Pupul Jayakar, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, and Habib Tanvir. He's met everyone; in one of his books, there's a black-and-white photograph of a young, square-jawed Sethi in earnest conversation with Jackie Kennedy. It's to say that his upbringing gave him conviction and confidence. For half a century, Sethi has been the front man for Indian craftspeople, for those in the peripheries who make things with their hands and have done for generations.
27/10/18 Shougat Dasgupta/India Today

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