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Vintage textile Collector - Salim Wazir

In the far western corner of India, nestled in the Kutchi town of Bhuj, lies the Museum Quality Textiles, home to Salim Wazir and his family. Following in his beloved late father's footsteps A.A Wazir, Salim dedicates his life to collecting and preserving vintage textiles. The region of Kutch is celebrated for its remarkable textile heritage, and there is no better guide than Salim to illuminate the richness of this tradition. Salim is a dear friend of South Asia Uncovered and kindly took the time to speak with us about his passion and the significance behind the intricate embroideries that make this corner of India so uniquely special.

Salim, you have continued the remarkable work of your late father, A.A. Wazir, at the Wazir Museum Quality Textiles. Can you share some insights on how his legacy influences your work today and the steps you take to preserve and expand this heritage?

I am so fortunate and lucky as well as happy to continue my fathers legacy of collecting, preserving and sharing our cultural heritage textile pieces to the world. I was influenced into getting into this field of work after I watched my father smelling the textile pieces - when I asked him why he does that, he smiled and replied by saying "I feel the warmth and love of the embroidery artisans and this makes me very happy". This influenced me a lot seeing how much he loved his pieces and this made me want to follow his footsteps in my early years. I am quite determined to go on and on and want to continue and expand this beautiful and inspiring job or I would say textile journey ahead with more to collect and share and I really want to fulfil my fathers dream of having a small Museum with his personal pieces which he left behind for coming generations. I really enjoy and appreciate my father to choose this job which inspires many students, scholars, individuals and textile lovers.

Your collection includes a vast array of textiles from the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia. Could you highlight some of the most unique or historically significant pieces in your collection and what makes them special?

Yes we do have a lot, but as far as unique or historical significance pieces are concerned, I would say the pieces which were made by mothers for their daughters to be given as wedding gifts. Those pieces are very unique and significant because those pieces speak the love and care of a mother for her daughter and that makes them very special for us.

Kutchi embroideries are central to your collection. What makes these textiles distinct, and how do they reflect the cultural heritage of the Kutch region?

The majority of our collection is from Kutch and Sindh (pre-partition) and they are unique and elaborate in lots of ways. Each and every community has their own style of embroidery and that reflects their identity - who they are and to which community they belong to. Even now, whenever we see a woman from a specific community passing by we can identify them by their embroidery outfit, from which community they belong to and which region of Kutch they are from. For me this is something very unique in a way to maintain their origin and style which continues to this day. This is very strong in Kutch and no one wants to lose their identity in this modern era.

I also want to mention that embroidery is a language which is spoken here by the locals. For example, we can find out the wants and wishes of a lady through her embroidery motifs. Every motif has a meaning and it says something deeper, rather than just a figural design. This is a secret language that not many people know except the embroidery artisan herself or people like us who have been working alongside these communities for decades. I am proud that I have learnt this secret language of Kutchi embroideries from my father and I am passing this information to my family members and to those textile enthusiasts who come to visit us and our collection. I believe the more we share, the more we gain. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in preserving and promoting traditional textiles, and what triumphs have made these efforts worthwhile?

In a way, we have a dry climate here in Kutch which helps us in preserving the textiles but we still we have to be always very careful with the earlier and fragile pieces. We do this by using natural spices to keep away the insects in small cotton potli’s (bundles) and we take out the pieces every now and then and change the folds so that the fabric doesn’t get deep marks or creases. This does become a big challenge as a whole as we can never really know what can happen. Another challenge is with certain dyes, specially the Iron for black which always deteriorates after certain decades and for that we still don’t really know how to protect it.

To maintain three thousand personal collection pieces is not an easy task. We need to take care all the time and financially it’s also quite expensive to maintain. However to promote our textile collections, we have been successful with word of mouth, as that is how most people come to know about us and visit. Firstly, there are certain tour operators from abroad when they plan a Gujarat textile tour they put us in their itineraries, like yourself Sian, along with several other operators from different countries. We also get students from fashion and design schools and universities from India and abroad, along with scholars and other textile enthusiasts. We have seen that when people visit us they may mention or recommend our place to others and thats how it works. More recently, I started promoting our work on social media during covid as no one was visiting and that helped me immensely to promote ourselves and our textile collection (@salim_wazir). We also take part in several small exhibitions locally and internationally.

Looking ahead, what are your future plans for Wazir Museum Quality Textiles?

Looking ahead, my future plan and main priority is to fulfil my fathers dream to have his own small Wazir Textile Museum which unfortunately he was not able to achieve during his life due to financial constraints. We still face the same problem but I am sure one day I will do it and that is the main goal of my life. I need to buy the land first and then plan the building and then how to do the displays etc. I just want to see this happen one day and I am sure it will. Insha Allah.

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