Carole Douglas

Field Notes - the anthropology of chai

Carole Douglas is an artist and traveller fascinated by the narrative of cloth and its power to reveal the history of people and the cultures from which they spring. Her career spans decades and disciplines, and is more recently concerned with using materials at hand to create site-specific work. She dyes fabric on site with local plant, animal or mineral matter and walks with her eyes to the ground and foraging tools in her pockets.

The materials in this work were found nestled in the grass, snagged in trees, trampled in the dust, discarded in village streets and lying on the floors of huts, houses and workshops across Kutch in remote rural India.

Gathered over a number of years, each fragment represents a person, captures a moment in time and is imbued with cultural significance. Together they create a human map that transcends normal bounds.

The base cloth was stained deliberately with buffalo milk chai in a remote village. The combination of tannin and protein creates a lasting stain that permeates every surface it touches. Chai is the ever-present offering that welcomes, warms and bonds. The stain thus honours a ritual that allows disparate communities such as Halepotra, Raysepotra, Hingora, Jat, Node, Samma, Rabari, Siddhi, Mutwa, Megwhal and Ahir to meet on common ground.

Tea dyed thread anchors and connects the fragments while acknowledging the patient hands of pastoral women who mend, patch, darn and decorate. The repetition of stitch over several months became a meditation on Carole‚Äôs own life and on those of others. 

Image: Carole Douglas, Field Notes - the anthropology of chai, 2018, COTA
Materials: found fabric and fabric related fragments, tea dyed calico and thread, canvas