Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Night-Time Heritage Tour

Being the tourists and trying to get our bearings in the city, Thurle and I opted for a highly recommended 'Heritage Night Walk of Ahmedabad'. The guided walk around the historic old city began at Mangaladas ni Haveli in Lakha Patel ni Pol, Khadia and wound its way along narrow lanes, past gated entrances, bird feeders, temples and monuments, past Fernandez Bridge and on to the market area of Manek Chowk.
Mangaladas ni Haveli is one of the intricately carved traditional houses of the pols. The carved detailling exists both on the outside and inside of the building. Pillars and panels of stone and wood are covered with repeat patterns, floral and fluid designs cover the surfaces.
The traditional Havelis have multiple storeys built around an open central 'courtyard' within the house, which all the rooms look over, this area acts  like a ventilation shaft in the hot summer. Each Haveli has its own water tank built beneath the house which collects and stores rain water. Built of limestone the tank keeps the water fresh and safe to use.

Mangaladas ni Haveli is a restaurant - cafe and hosts a craft centre selling traditional and contemporary craft and design from across Gujarat. It is linked to The House of MG (Mangaldas Girdhardas) a very luxurious Urban Heritage Hotel in the centre of Ahmedabad which also has a craft centre.
The lamp shade had designs very similar to the 'Mata ni Pachedi' drawings by Sanjay Chitara
There were examples of work similar to that which we had seen in the shop at the NID campus, selling work by both staff and alumni. 

Bamboo is a material of increasing importance both globally and in particular in India were large areas of the country are able to grow it as a crop. Quick growing, structurally strong and bio-degradable, both at NID and at CEE I had seen and heard of significant sustainable design projects exploring both its design potential as a material and its use as a means of developing communities in rural areas through small and medium sized business enterprises.

Outside on the tour we passed more large intricate buildings with almost every surface covered in the intricate designs by the Jain and Hindu carvers. Gujarat is one of the wealthier states of India and it is clear that the city has held this status for a long time, its location in the wider India context being a centre for trade in textiles- the city was once dubbed the Manchester of the east. Sadly some of the traditional buildings are in a poor state of repair and some have been lost, through earthquakes and neglect. A campaign is developing to both educate the world and the local population of the significance of the buildings and their global importance as an architectural style. Several individuals and groups are developing projects and campaigns to preserve the heritage of the old city. Ahmedabad is seeking world heritage status for the area.  

We walked around the city learning about the pols, the history and the architecture. The tour took us to Manek Chowk, a market in the old city, close to what was once the jewelers quarter and the old stock exchange, and to one of the old gates which was once the boundary of the city wall at Badshah no Hajiro.  We climbed a tight stairway to a small room above the gateway or Darwaza. 
A tradition, which dates back to the reign of Sultan Ahmed Shah 1, would mark the daily opening and closing of the cities gates with drumming. This tradition continues and most evenings the drums or nagaras can be heard along with a Shehnai (like an oboe).
Passed down through a family line, as custodians of the nagarakhana the musicians are paid a salary by the Waqf committee to continue the tradition. 

Hear them drumming here: The Drummers at the City Gate. and here: City Gate Drummers

Nearby is the Mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed Shah II (1411 - 1442), his son Muhammad Shah (died 1451) and grandson Qut Bud Din Ahmad Shah II (died 1458). Sultan Ahmed Shah founded Ahmedabad and the city is named after him.

The mausoleum is built on a square plan with a raise  platform, It has a central chamber which has a beautiful ceiling inside the dome. The design is described as of 'Trabeate Pattern'.
Painted panel on the wall.
Around the central hall is a corridor and there are four small chambers located at each of the corners where further tombs are held.

The building has an entrance from the south side and pillars porticos projecting from the middle of each side.  The building contains beautiful and delicate carved stone screens typical of the Sultana architecture of this period ( early 1400's).