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Chan­nelling the Tribal Spirit

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For­mer ad­ver­tis­ing and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­sign pro­fes­sional GEE­TAN­JALI has al­ways been en­chanted by tribal arts and crafts of yore, and wanted to re­vive these tra­di­tions be­fore they were lost to moder­nity. Choosing jew­ellery as her medium, Gee­tan­jali ven­tured head-on to launch Moha by Gee­tan­jali. Rooted in tra­di­tion, her jew­ellery re­flects an old-world charm and is brim­ming with sto­ries of its own. Gee­tan­jali talks about her chal­leng­ing but re­ward­ing jour­ney with ALIYA LADHABHOY.

You have worked in ad­ver­tis­ing and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­sign. How did you switch to jew­ellery de­sign?

I worked in ad­ver­tis­ing and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­sign for al­most a decade. I have al­ways had a tremen­dous love for tra­di­tional craft. I am a big fan of tribal aes­thet­ics in ev­ery sense and of­ten dis­re­gard modern-day, run-of-themill jew­ellery. I of­ten sketched jew­ellery de­signs of my own. When I went out to buy jew­ellery, I found it dif­fi­cult to find some­thing that I liked and ap­pre­ci­ated. In the end, I de­cided to start my own brand of jew­ellery, which is eas­ier said than done.

Why did you de­cide to call your brand Moha? When did you start the brand?

I am heavily influenced by the dif­fer­ent tribes in In­dia and I am fas­ci­nated by their creativ­ity and skill. Many tribes in Ma­ha­rash­tra wor­ship the moha or mahua tree as their ‘kalpavruk­sha’. The term moha, in San­skrit, means de­sire and jew­ellery has al­ways been the most de­sired ob­ject since an­cient times. I felt it was apt for a jew­ellery brand. I started Moha by Gee­tan­jali in De­cem­ber 2013.

Did you find it dif­fi­cult to en­ter the jew­ellery sec­tor? At any point, did you feel the need to for­mally learn the art of jew­ellery mak­ing?

It was very dif­fi­cult to get into this field since I did not have any jew­ellery back­ground. In In­dia, the jew­ellery sec­tor is a very close-knit field. It is an un­or­gan­ised sec­tor and the ar­ti­sans are scat­tered all over the coun­try. More so, the skills are lim­ited to a few re­gions and fam­i­lies. This makes em­bark­ing into this sec­tor a bit dif­fi­cult.

I sought help from my fam­ily’s gold jew­eller in the ini­tial stages. Later, I learnt by trial and er­ror and sat with the ar­ti­sans to learn from them. I spent the first two years read­ing, ob­serv­ing, learn­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing with jew­ellery-mak­ing techniques from around the world.

What in­spires your de­signs?

Na­ture and its beauty has been a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion. I also look at folk art and crafts for in­spi­ra­tion. The rus­tic ap­peal of tribal jew­ellery fas­ci­nates me.

Tell us about your col­lec­tions.

Ini­tially, I would cre­ate in­de­pen­dent pieces but slowly and con­sciously shifted to theme-based de­sign col­lec­tions. My first col­lec­tion was inspired by Goa’s pre-Por­tuguese aes­thet­ics, as a trib­ute to a fan­tas­tic place which is so much more than just its beaches. That col­lec­tion was inspired from the rich bio­di­ver­sity of Goa, its tem­ples, shrines and eth­nic Goan jew­ellery.

The sec­ond col­lec­tion, Kish was ded­i­cated to seed pods. The lat­est is the Re­vival col­lec­tion.

Tell us about your Re­vival pieces.

I have ob­served that some time­less de­signs are be­ing wiped out. This has hap­pened due to com­pli­cated jew­ellery techniques as well as chang­ing life­style pref­er­ences. Women to­day pre­fer to wear lighter pieces. So my fo­cus was to con­nect these miss­ing dots and make wear­able art com­pat­i­ble with to­day’s life­style.

The Re­vival col­lec­tion has been inspired by an­tique yet time­less aes­thet­ics in jew­ellery. I have at­tempted to bring some of them back to life and have mod­i­fied their de­signs to suit modern-day re­quire­ments.

How has the re­sponse been?

The re­sponse has been good and I am very happy with the positive feed­back. It feels good to have been able to ed­u­cate peo­ple about our her­itage, aes­thet­ics and de­signs and tell a story that is deeper, rather than just cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful piece of jew­ellery.

Are you work­ing on a new col­lec­tion?

We have two col­lec­tions that are cur­rently in the mak­ing, which have been inspired by history. I have been study­ing and re­search­ing them for more than a year now and it is slowly but surely tak­ing shape.

For one of the col­lec­tions, we have re­vived the hand­crafted beads of an era gone by us­ing the same techniques that were preva­lent at that time. We shall launch this col­lec­tion in a cou­ple of months.

How is your col­lec­tion for men far­ing?

We have a col­lec­tion of quirky and off­beat pieces for men. The re­sponse has been good and we have re­ceived a lot of ap­pre­ci­a­tion, but I feel we still need to do more re­search on their tastes and cre­ate pieces which could be worn by a more di­verse group of men.

How has the jour­ney been so far?

The jour­ney has been a passionate one. My love for the craft has kept me go­ing. Some­times it has been frus­trat­ing, chal­leng­ing but equally re­ward­ing. There have been sev­eral mo­ments of de­spair and mo­ments of plea­sure and grat­i­tude. We find our bal­ance in these sur­real ups and downs which, in turn, makes us march ahead ev­ery sin­gle day.

Which de­sign is your per­sonal favourite?

It is so dif­fi­cult and al­most im­pos­si­ble to pick one favourite. I have put equal amounts of love, af­fec­tion and at­ten­tion into each piece. Each de­sign is very close to my heart.

Your de­signs are rooted in tra­di­tional forms. Do you think you would ex­plore con­tem­po­rary de­signs in the near fu­ture?

I al­ways like to ex­per­i­ment and have tried to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and unique and elim­i­nate repet­i­tive de­signs. I con­sciously tried to break my own bound­aries. When I de­sign, I try to cre­ate de­signs which peo­ple can pair with both tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary at­tire.

What’s next for your brand?

It’s a very new brand, we have just started crawl­ing. We are happy to be loved, ad­mired and re­spected for our work. We want Moha to grow into a re­spectable brand and to be known for its qual­ity and unique­ness.

The Mat­sya Kanya silver ear­rings take their cue from tra­di­tional Goan jew­ellery. As per Goan belief, fish rep­re­sents hap­pi­ness, free­dom, fer­til­ity and abun­dance.

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