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Sahaj: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat


A new book co-authored by our collection curator, Ben Cartwright. The first book of its kind. The term Sahaj can mean either ‘inherent’ or ‘intrinsic’, and this book introduces the vernacular furniture that is inherent to Gujarat.

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Sahaj: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright, is the result of the first-ever survey and accompanying research of vernacular furniture in Gujarat. It is the result of Phase I: Gujarat of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project conducted collaboratively by Design Innovation and Craft Resource Center (DICRC), CEPT University and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), UK. This book focuses on vernacular furniture in Gujarat from c.1900 to the present. Nearly 2000 furniture pieces and associated objects were recorded during the course of this research. Sahaj is published by the CEPT University Press and supported by Gujarat Tourism, Government of Gujarat. Vernacular furniture is the traditional everyday furniture made and used by many different communities throughout the state. The Gujarati term Sahaj can mean either ‘inherent’ or ‘intrinsic’, and this book introduces the everyday furniture that is inherent to, and still is made and used throughout Gujarat: whether that be a local household constructing a kothi (grain store) from mud; a kharadi (woodturner) crafting the lacquered frame of a parnu (cradle); or a suthar or mistri (carpenter) creating the series of joints and complicated interlocking compartments in a majju (a large and ornate hope chest on wheels, decorated with carved wooden grills or inset glazed ceramic tiles).The vernacular furniture presented in Sahaj plays an important role in the tasks and rituals of everyday life in Gujarat, and in some cases, has done for centuries. Furniture items are presented in five use-based chapters: Aasan: seat; Manch: bed; Manjush: storage; Sapaat: surface; and Vastu: objects. Each furniture type is accompanied with detailed physical information (materials, construction methods, scaled drawings and exploded drawings made using 3D modelling software) and a more human story (location, contextual photographs, oral histories). Gujarat is a large and environmentally diverse state with a number of different communities and language groups; the vernacular furniture in Sahaj reflects this diversity.


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