Painting with a Needle


Painting with a Needle, is a film from the UNESCO Parzor Archives. Zoroastrianism has its roots in Central Asia, its religious tradition caries forward core ideas of a holistic approach to life through celebratory art forms. Later, Persian culture along the Silk Route developed a syncretism in its approach to the arts and crafts. Zoroastrian embroidery is a celebration of symbolism, colour and craft reflected in textiles, which have kept alive a special identity across millennia. Those who fled Iran in the 9th century, came as religious refugees to India, where they became the Parsis of Gujarat. A promise to the King of their new land was to accept local lifestyles as a mark of social acculturation. Their mother tongue became Gujarati and women now wore the Gujarati sari as their costume. As a trading community on the Silk Route, Zoroastrians already had ancient links with China. As these revived, in a post-colonial world and with the opium trade, Parsi traders brought home from China, treasures of porcelain and textiles. However, what began as trade in embroidered textiles, became a fascination for the skill of an art form, which largely patronized by the Parsis, came to be associated with them. As Parsi women began living in the Factory settlements of China, an exchange of designs and customization for the Parsi market, led finally to the development of the Parsi gara. Techniques of "Parsi Embroidery," by the 19th century, came to draw upon four distinct cultural traditions: Iranian, Chinese, Indian and European. This film tries to record what "Parsi embroidery" means, both to the creators of this craft form and the women who wore and continue to wear these creations. An attempt has been made to put together details of the raw materials, techniques of embroidery, as well as the intangible attributes of these textiles and its present situation in the world of Indian embroidery. Painting with a Needle hopes to record a unique part of Parsi culture and establish its continuity into the future.

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