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    Jasleen Dhamija

    Map Academy

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    A prominent historian in the field of Indian textiles, Jasleen Dhamija contributed multiple books and extensive research on traditional Indian crafts, and played a key role in policy development and revival efforts. She was involved in formulating policies for the handicraft, handloom and rural livelihood sectors of India and several other countries.

    Dhamija was born in Abbottabad (present-day Pakistan) where she lived until 1940, when her family moved to New Delhi. Here, she studied at the Presentation Convent School and later attended the University of Delhi. It was during these years that she developed an interest in handicrafts, fashioning bags and lampshades to sell at the Cottage Industries Emporium.

    Dhamija began her career at the All India Handicrafts Board in 1954. During this time, she travelled extensively with Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and met artisans across the country as the Board worked to formulate a policy for the revival of the handicrafts and handloom sectors in India. She later went on to write a biography of Chattopadhyay, which was published by the National Book Trust in 2007.

    As an advisor and consultant, with organisations such as the United Nations Development Project and the World Bank, Dhamija worked in diverse geographic and social environments. In Iran, she worked on a project on rural non-farm employment, was an advisor to the Farabi University, Tehran, and authored the book Living Traditions of Iran’s Crafts (1979). Through the 1970s and 1980s, she worked on the revival of crafts practices and women’s livelihoods in twenty-one countries in Africa. She also worked with the United Nations in Central Asia. In 2011, she was appointed co-chairperson of the Handloom Development Working Group for the twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012–17) by the Planning Commission of India.

    Dhamija authored and edited several works on textiles, costumes and folk arts around the world, including Indian Folk Arts and Crafts (1992), Woven Magic: The Affinity Between Indian and Indonesian Textiles (2002), Asian Embroidery (2004) and Baluchars: The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal (2019). She also published two cookbooks, The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking (2000) and Cooking For All Seasons (2003). Among the exhibitions she co-curated were Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics (2006) in Melbourne, Australia, and Powercloths of the Commonwealth (2010) in New Delhi.

    Dhamija taught at several institutions, including the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad; the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi; the University of Minnesota, USA; and the University of Canberra, Australia.

    Dhamija passed away in March 2023 at her home in New Delhi.



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