Bridging the Old and New Worlds: Vintage Textile Collector Mr. A. A. Wazir

The room is layered with brightly colored phulkaris, rabari embroidered cloths and cowry shell tassels. Among them is seated a man who has spent more than forty years painstakingly building what can easily become a museum collection. At his home in Bhuj in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the septuagenarian Mr. A.A. Wazir has passionately set out to preserve rare textiles, from colourful geometric patterns of Sindhi embroidery to kantha stitched garments from West Bengal and southern India tribal textiles.

Generations of native tribes from Kutch have been involved in creating unique embroidered textiles. The tribal ‘Rabari’ embroidery has vigorous, bold shapes with designs borrowed from mythology and the desert surroundings of tribal women involved in creating these. In these, differently shaped glass mirrors are interlaced with the square chain stitch.

It is beautiful pieces like these that Mr. Wazir has been working to collect and share with vintage textile lovers and connoisseurs.

Having formally studied commerce, he followed it up a course in Miniature Paintings at the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai. Here he met progressive artists of the time, among them S.H. Raza and M.F. Hussain. Mr. Wazir then began buying and selling miniature paintings, through which he discovered the circulation of fake art in the market. His attention turned to textiles much later and by the time a friend urged him to return to Bhuj and help preserve dying textiles, Mr. Wazir was already building a rare collection.

The devastating Bhuj earthquake of 2001 damaged his home and resulted in a loss of nearly 3000 rare pieces. He eventually reconstructed his home and along with his sons got back to collecting rare textiles. According to him, this is one way to bridge the old and the new worlds.

The exquisite collection he has built with such care (that includes wonders like a 100 year old Afghan coat) is worthy of being displayed and preserved in a museum. Having sought Government assistance for the same and not receiving a favourable reply, he has now focused on exhibiting wherever possible, including outside India.

While the pieces are in his store they live in soft muslin cloth. He preserves them with a bag of cloves, cardamom and cotton to ward off insects. Every four to six months each piece gets to see the sun for a few minutes, when the folds are changed before being wrapped in muslin again.

At the shop, housed in Mr. Wazir’s Bhuj home, visitors immerse themselves in the sights of rare treasures and the unique stories behind them. These are made special when narrated by the man who has dedicated his life to collecting these vintage riches and is sharing them with the world.

– by Manika Dhama

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