The connect between India and Mexico is historic. It dates back to the Imperial era, when Mexico, an erstwhile Spanish colony, was viewed as the gate to Latin America. When Indian silks and spices along with other oriental rarities found their way into the Latin American region through the Spanish corridor housed within the heritage city of Puebla. When ships full of far Eastern and Asian delicacies wound their way through the high seas to grace the homes, chapels and palaces of Mexico.
Rewinding that trail , this time via the ‘air route’, India’s most respected costume creator Umang Hutheesing took a collection of Royal Indian costumes to Mexico’s heritage city of Puebla. Invited to present a show titled ‘The Baroque Maharajas’ at the newly opened International Baroque Museum, Umang presented robes and textiles of the hindu kings and nawabs. Blending both the distinct iconography of Islamic and Hindu symbols and styles, he traced the rich Baroque trail through the show.
The Baroque movement is often thought of as a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, theater, and music. The style began around 1600 in Rome , and spread to most of Europe as well as its occupied colonies. Baroque design is all about lines that blend in and forms that incorporate an innate sense of drama in them. And to enhance that notion, the Baroque Museum, a very interactive, technology driven space built by Toyo Ito, a famed Japanese architect, follows a circular, free flowing form. With no sharp lines and no edges.
Just like the flowing and intricate costumes presented by Umang of the Baroque design school which Indian Maharajas also incorporated in their style. They adapted European and English influences in their costumes in the 1900s. The fabled Delhi Darbar was witness to it. What with the Maharanis wearing capes over their rich poshaks, converting their cholis into peplum tops and adding inner layers and flounce to their lehengas. While the Maharaja brought in the ceremonial cape, the short cravat and the sharp gillet to his achkan and bandgala styles.
This blend of many worlds, a symbol of Baroque free form and tolerance, became the central theme of Umang’s collection. No one in the world understands the intricacies of costume creation like him. Or is sensitive towards the curation of a royal museum collection and for Puebla he recreated the Maharaja’s connect with the West that began as soon as the British set foot into India, the Spanish and Portugese started living in Goa and South India and the sea route took them to distant U. K. for studying, shopping and revelry. Puebla, a city that graciously welcomes various cultures to its folds was stunned with the rich collection as its intellegentsia flocked to see the show. “Mexico is a country that goes to museums with the family, the lover and college mates,” informs Umang. They look for moments that showcase unique history or development at such museums.
On a museum trail through 2015 and 2016, Umang Hutheesing, earlier curated an exhibition ‘Magnificent Maharajahs: Splendour of Indian Royal Costumes’ for the National Museum of Bahrain. Invited to the country by the royal family, Umang presented luxurious textiles, exquisite costumes and elaborate garments, much of which is the property of the prestigious Hutheesing family.