Bessie Cecil

Archival and Museum Fellowships
2014-2015

Grant Period: Over one year

Bessie Cecil has a doctorate in Textile Design and Textile Conservation and is based in Chennai. Her project at the Decorative Arts Department is to primarily research the effect that the river has on the textile industry with special focus on the Ganges and its influence on the weaving of the ‘brocade sari’ of Banaras. Historically, Bessie says, the textile industry has always grown alongside rivers. This is because water influences the strength of the fibre and the quality of the dyes from indigenous plants. The river is an integral part of the physical and chemical production of a sari, as every stage of the process needs water – from sizing the yarn for the loom, to dyeing and washing. The chemical combination of the water in the river gives the sari its unique individuality. Bessie’s research will also consider the sari as an artifact that has many stories to tell - historical, technical, aesthetic, commercial, social and political and it is all this that she wants to make visible to the public through an exhibition, and hopefully a publication.