Friday, 8 December 2017

Lamani Love - The One Where I Share My Tribal Collection


It's all a bit grim here today, heavy snowstorms and positively Arctic temperatures with weather warnings issued for the weekend, even our schools are closed. Time to start thinking about our escape to warmer climes. 


When I first went to India twenty years ago I expected to see beautiful women in saris - and I did. What completely took me by surprise were the Lamani women (also known as the Banjara) I encountered in Goa. The Lamani are nomadic tribe, originally from the Northwest belt of India - from Afghanistan to the state of Rajasthan - but now spread out through the entire subcontinent. Many settled in Karnataka, Goa's neighbouring state, travelling across the border during the tourist season to make their living.

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The Lamani women specialise in lepo embroidery which involves stitching fragments of mirror, coins and decorative beads on to their clothes. Their jewellery is a mish-mash of scrap metal, old tin and cutlery and obsolete coins, pierced or bashed into shape and strung on scraps of fabric and old rope. Every toe is adorned with a ring, they wear bells in their hair, huge nose rings and heavy bangles. You can usually hear them before you see them.

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From the moment I saw the Lamani I was transfixed. I wanted to own some of those amazing pieces. The trouble is that although the women are often traders, hawking their goods around the tourist hot spots of India, they mostly sell tourist trinkets. The clothes & jewellery they adorn themselves with are their own, painstakingly hand-made and highly prized.

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It's taken me almost two decades to build up my small collection of Lamani costume and that's through getting to know the ladies personally, helping out with their kids' homework or just sitting and chatting by the roadside. Although they're made from scrap metal, the jewellery can cost hundreds of pounds from specialist tribal selling sites - not that I'll ever sell mine.  


Three of my coin belts.


Two armlets and a pair of heavy metal ankle bracelets (I got luck with the armlet on the left of the screen, I found it on another trader's stall at a Judy's Vintage fair).


Ring made from obsolete Indian paise coins and a trio of Rajasthani toe rings.


Late 19th century Century torque and three vintage tribal coin necklaces, all originating from Karnataka.


The bust detail on this blouse indicates it was made in Gujarat.


Hand embroidered sleeves with mirrored inserts.









I found this Gujarati scarf in a charity shop dump bin for 50p recently. It's decorated with a thousand year old tie-dye technique.


 Even if our British weather isn't always good enough to wear the clothes, I try and wear a piece of Lamani jewellery every day.


I wonder which pieces I'll be packing to take back with me next time? I think that blue blouse might be a strong possibility.


I'll leave you with these incredible photos taken by Michael Lange. Even without colour, aren't they a beautiful tribe? 

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Counting the days until I see my friend Laxmi again!


Time to light the fire and crack on with the birthday rum.

Have a fab weekend, folks!

65 comments:

  1. These women glow with strength and dignity. Are you heading for their area of India this time?

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    1. They do, don't they? Isn't it refreshing that they dress like this for life and don't "tone it down" when they get older!
      There's a lot of Lamanis in Goa. Many live in Karnataka, the next state down, and travel in for the tourist season. There's some different tribes in Gujarat, I'm so excited about visiting their native villages in Kutch. xxx

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  2. These women look so fierce. Like nothing would take them down.

    You can really see all the love that went into the clothes and jewellery. When you know the history and work behind it you appreciate the pieces so much more.

    Suzanne

    HOORAY! I can comment again! Thank you!

    BTW...it comes up as name and URL with another option of anonymous so the Name and URL work perfectly.

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    1. Hooray! So glad you can comment again. Thanks for helping me. I'll change those settings if I get inundated with spam.
      Don't those women look amazing? They're usually the breadwinners of the family and are always feisty and loads of fun. xxx

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  3. What a fantastic collection! The embroidery is stunning, I have never seen anything like it. I'm sure you'll be counting the days - not long now! Have a great weekend! Shame about the atrocious weather conditions, but at least you can look forward to escape part of Winter! xxx

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    1. Thank you!! Nothing like a snowy weekend to get me longing for my great escape. xxx

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  4. Beautiful collection. Those necklaces look heavy.
    Hope your storm passes quickly.

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    1. They weigh loads. I usually have bruises around my ankles for ages after wearing the anklets. Those women are tough! x

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  5. Your collection is wonderful - so interesting to hear about the trash to treasure approach in some of it. I bet you can't wait for your trip! Xx

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    1. That's one of the things I love about the Lamani people, they recycle almost everything! x

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  6. Stunningly beautiful and bohemian. I love the metal adornments, even more when you explain how everyday objects are transformed. The colours are spectacular.
    The black and white photos are strikingly beautiful.
    It's almost possible to forget that it's the depths of winter outside.
    Enjoy the rum and the weekend xxx

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    1. Yes, as much as I love how colourful the Lamani women are those black and white photographs really show their fierce nature. xxx

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  7. so beautiful! Years ago I taught myself to sew those mirrors onto things. Now I've forgotten how! I probably still have the book, so that's something to do over Christmas break.

    It's snowing all over The South, except here....yeah!

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    1. Yay! I wish we were snow-free. It's still at it!
      You need to relearn that art of sewing mirrors to clothing and I need to learn it, several of mine need some repair!

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  8. Wow, I absolutely love both the images of the stunning women and their gorgeous clothes and jewellery. It must take so much time and effort to make each piece. How marvellous to be able to experience their artistry first hand. Your collection is absolutely stunning. They really are statement pieces and the workmanship is superb. I can tell that you are gearing up to get back to India away from all this terrible weather.

    I have a lovely little bag that my friend gave me from her travels in India many years ago that I think might be Lamani. It has lovely mirrors and embroidery on it in a design very much like your black top. She did say that it was quite a hard to get hold of piece at the time. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I will have to take a photo of it. Have a fabulous, rum-sodden weekend! Xx

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    1. India's modernising so rapidly, it's changed significantly in the time I've been going so I love seeing the native tribes clinging on to their traditions of dress.
      Those pieces are very hard to get hold of - at a fair price. Far too many tourists just want copies of western designer gear rather than anything authentic and lovely. xxx

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  9. I saw the Birmingham snow on the news, we've had none down south...yet.
    I've impressed Sunil from Kerala (a work colleague) with my knowledge about India ....mostly learned from your blog it has to be said, imagine if he met you? So interesting to learn about the Lamani, amazing photos!
    Stay warm. Xx

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    1. It seems like it's the West Midlands bearing the brunt of the snow. The BBC weather map for tomorrow is a massive white blob across the entire region - gawd help us!
      How long has Sunil been away from Kerala? I can't imagine what a culture shock it must be, he comes from paradise!! xxx

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    2. Years I think, now settled here with a family. Xx

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    3. I bet he misses his homeland especially in the winter! x

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  10. I just wet my pants with excitement. I LOVE that stuff and I am hella jealous of your collection!

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    1. That's how I am the entire time I am in India! So much to admire and lust over!

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  11. Really enjoyed learning about the Lamani. The black and white photos are so amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Lynn! Those black and white portraits are incredible, aren't they? What a talented man Michael Lange is.

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  12. Hi Vix, I love most things with embroidery and coins, and your collection is fab! Xxx

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    1. Thanks, Jess - glad you enjoyed it!

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  13. Wow, those women are stunning. I love especially how they are covered in all this intricate detail and myriad of colours and textures, and yet, their personalities and individual beauty shines through so strongly. You really see them.

    Your pieces are amazing, Vix. I can practically feel the heft of them - they look like strong, weighty pieces.

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    1. Aren't they amazing, Sheila? They dress like that their entire adult lives, no toning it down or playing safe. Absolutely inspirational!

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  14. I have a couple of Gujarati tiedye suits but never wear them because my husband hates them. Oh well, I love my Kashmiri & Punjabi suits too. We sell a lot of Tibetan jewelry in our shops made of Nepali silver. It's a shame you don't see that much tribal clothing & jewelry being worn or sold in India.

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    1. I'm often called into a lot of shops selling Tibetan jewellery made from Nepali silver when I'm in India. When we first went I could pick it up really cheaply - hence why I've got a ring on every finger and an armful of bangles - but in twenty years the prices have rocketed and are way off my meagre budget!
      I'm hoping to find some (affordable) treasures in Kutch! xxx

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  15. Fabulous jewellery and clothes. In the seventies you could buy copies of this style made into bags and skirts with mirror decoration from Kensington market. I presume they copied the style from these amazing tribal ladies but they always fell apart and weren't well made! I had a few of the bags. Original clothes and jewellery like yours is really special though, you have a great collection.

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    1. Mum wore a lot of the imported stuff back in the 1970s. It was very poorly made - a lot like the tourist clothes made from old sarees I used to bring back from India and sell to pay for my return flight back, I used to have to tell customers to hand wash the pieces in cold water and only launder it when it really, really needed it! xxx

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  16. Good morning, what amazing black and white photos. The women look like a warrior race, ready to defend anything but then they are covered in amazing outfits and jewellery. Incredible. Another really wonderful and informative blog, thank you. I bet you are counting the minutes until you can soak up some of that gorgeous sunshine. Stay warm, regards Sue H.

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    1. Hello, Susan! It's almost like those colourful clothes and metal jewellery is their armour, isn't it? I think a lot of tourists are intimidated by the appearance of these women, but they're unfailingly friendly and kind once you chat to them.
      So glad you enjoyed the post. Stay warm, too. It's not great here! xxx

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  17. Such pride and fierceness in their faces. Easy to imagine their Afghan heritage. I love your blog and have been following it for years but have never been able to leave a comment. Hope I can now under " anonymous". Corinne

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    1. Hello Corinne! Lovely to hear from you. I've been playing around with the comment settings as a couple of readers haven't been able to comment for ages.
      Those black and white photos really show the Lamani womens' strength of character, don't they? No sign of the stereotypical downtrodden woman in those images! xxx

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  18. wonderful!
    this women look so strong and wild - admirable! no wonder you love the jewelry and clothes, it is much more then just bling. once in berlin i came along such a blouse - but my viking frame did´t fit in - even then .... you do look gorgeous in yours.
    stay warm! xxxxx

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    1. Thank you, Beate! I knew you'd appreciate a bit of hand sewn gorgeousness!
      So much of the Lamani stuff is tiny - a maxi skirt on them is a knee length one on me! xxx

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  19. I haver seen this tribe before.They must be wonderful in reality. Do they speak English?

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    1. They are a sight to behold. Like almost everyone in India they generally speak good English - and usually Russian, too! xxx

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  20. The Lamani sound so interesting! I would love to learn how the make that jewelry and the embroidery. Your collection is gorgeous. I'm sure your friend is waiting to see you again, too!

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    1. I'd love to have a go, too - even more of an excuse to buy pretty stuff I find on my travels! x

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  21. Beautiful, statuesque women. I hadn't heard of the tribe before. That's why I love blogging...all the windows into different worlds it opens up for me.
    Arilx

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    1. Me, too - Aril. I learn so much from reading blogs, far more educational than the TV! xxx

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  22. Fascinating!!! You have a wonderful collection! I was familiar with the mirror/embroidery work because I collected little boxes for years, and you can see some fabric pieces with this kind of embroidery in stores like Pier 1 here. But I did not know it comes from a tribe!

    Hope your cold storm passes soon! But it can be so cozy to just stay at home with fireplace and all. :)

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    1. Those little mirrored and papier mache boxes are just lovely, aren't they? I try to resist the temptation to buy them when I see them piled up on little roadside stalls in India.
      Thank you! the fire's lit and the curtains tightly drawn. I'm hoping the BBC have exaggerated how bad it's supposed to be tonight! xxx

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  23. So much love for this Vix - thank you for posting. I have a small hoard of this kind of clothing and jewellery that I've accumulated over the years and you've inspired me to wear one piece a day. I'm a textile nut and it amazes me what people will discard when you imagine the work that has gone into it (no doily or bit of lace left behind lol). Those Lamani women look so mighty and your friend Laxmi such a vibrant spirit :) I keep coming back to soak up those colours - thank you xx

    Elaine Tralala

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    1. Another Lamani costume collector, hooray! I just love how much care and attention these woman take in not only getting dressed but creating those breathtaking pieces from virtually nothing. I'm thrilled that you're going to get some wear from your pieces. I'm wearing a toe ring on one of my fingers today. xxx

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  24. The Lamani women look wonderful! Such beautiful and exquisite clothing and jewellery. I always think of the hundreds of hours that go into making all those wonderful things and that labour is almost priceless. Imagine finding a scarf like that in a 50p charity shop bin, but I suppose in the chazza's defence they didn't know how special it was.

    We have snow today about 4 inches thick and more to come this afternoon...
    xxx

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    1. That's it, isn't it? The hours and hours it's taken the Lamani to make these pieces using bit and pieces that would be thrown away by India's more affluent people. I love that the women dress like this their entire adult life, no toning it down as they get older.
      It's still snowing here, goodness knows what's going to happen overnight! xxx

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  25. This is fascinating Vix! Thanks so much for teaching me about the Lamani! I like the idea that it recycles old things!

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    1. My pleasure, Kezzie! Seeing that jewellery always inspires me to have a go at making something with scrap bits and pieces myself. xxx

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  26. Really awesome collection, I'm glad that you could cultivate a friendship with some of those artistic women, they look like genuine personalities!. And I love that embroidery technique, the little mirrors attached to the clothes, the little pieces of fabric, the colors!, a real job of art!
    Your recently renovated screen is looking fabulous too!
    besos

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    1. Thank you! Those mirrored bits are wonderful, aren't they? Glittery and sparkly even on the drabbest day. xxx

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  27. Gorgeous! I've always loved these textiles and jewellery, so lovely to see your collection. Oh, ps I'm @jessiejessyg on instagram, just to make the connection ;)

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    1. I thought you were one and the same. Lovely to be friends on IG, I love your daily outfits. xxx

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  28. As the fashion world is so cyclical, I wonder if we will ever go back to making things. Or was it just a product of necessity? We have lost so much heart with our affluence. Mind you these women are an extremely lovely version of DIY!
    I love that you wear a piece every day in tribute.
    Enjoy your trip to visit your people. It takes me back to my PNG days!
    xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. Wouldn't it be lovely if we started to make stuff again? They do say there's a rising trend in dressmaking and sewing machines were selling out very quickly but I can't say I've seen more individually dressed people on our streets so I'm not sure what they're using them for - maybe to make grey leggings & hoodies?! xxx

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  29. Wow, I can see why you are fascinated by the Lamani women and their adornments. It's so cool that you have made a connection with some of them, and have your own small collection of jewellery and textiles. I think it would be wonderful to dress like them when I'm old, with a giant nose ring, arm cuffs and boldly embellished textiles.

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    1. Aren't they fabulous? I love that age makes no difference to how they dress! x

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  30. Such beautiful things! No wonder they're reluctant to part with them, the time and craft that goes into them must be immense. And I really love the photos of the Lamani wonen; you can really feel the strength and dignity shining out.

    It's just struck me that I don't know if we have a museum dedicated to India in the UK, which is bonkers given our large desi community and the countries' intertwined histories. (We have an American museum here in Bath, after all, and one of south-east Asian art - the latter was formed round one man's collection.)

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