Indie Cultural Spaces in Ahmedabad
House of MG and Mangalbagh Gallery
In 1999, Mangaldas family opened their terrace to welcome guests who wanted to indulge in authentic homelike Gujarati food and call it Agashiye. Today the ancestral home where once resided the two Mangaldas families, has managed to create a luxury hotel that carefully restores their family cultural heritage and offers an experience that matches none other in the city. Originally a textile family who owned several mills in the 1980’s, Mangaldas family has been part of the preserving textiles traditions of Gujarat through their a private collection of Textiles in the Textile museum in House of MG as well as Calico Museum in Ahmedabad.
As I walk around the nine decades old courtyard, I am told that Girdhar Mangaldas had invited Mahatma Gandhi during the Swadeshi movement to stay in this haveli even though he had shared a good industrial relationship with the British. Gandhi in those times was the mediator between owners of textile mills and labourers and led an ashram life at Sabarmati for many years after.
A traditional haveli would have an open courtyard, windows for ventilation, a west entrance and kitchen in the east, however, the hotel has now renovated the original to meet the needs of the modern day client. For me it was quiet charming to see patterned tiles ( almost 10 different kind!), old family photos in sepia and Belgian glass panes that added the old world charm to the space. “Abhay Mangaldas, who heads House Of MG, is involved in all creative decisions “shares my guide. An art aficionado, he has kept old furniture, textiles and collected artworks as well as designed some lights and objects with local craftsmen with an intention to involve the local community and preserve cultural heritage. Other initiatives like a trunk shop, book shop and workshops that are given in House of MG, again intend to bring Gujarati crafts to foreign clients.
While, house of Mg preserves the old and traditional, A fairly new initiative by Abhay Mangaldas, is an artist residency and gallery space at his residence called Mangalbag Gallery is rather contemporary in aesthetics. An hidden oasis in the busy city of Ahmedabad, the residency and gallery used to be his mother’s home with two rooms, a library, a courtyard with bougainvillea, verandah ( open area at the entrance) with a Hichko ( a traditional Gujarati swing), dining area and a garden with a pond of lotus flowers. The space invites a certain community of those who are looking for a creative and quiet time and also hosts independent art events like film screenings and photography shows.
Bandhani (exquisite traditional tie dye techniques) excites me. Since childhood I have been drawn to it. The typical older bandhanis you would get were actually made by tying a single mustard seed for each band, which makes the result incredibly precise. One nice thing about how the technique has expanded through designers is that now it is not only available in sarees and dupattas, but also in many other types of clothing, and in many different kinds of experiments that move beyond a traditional ethnic aesthetic.
I feel the strength of Indian crafts lies in its diversity , rich patterning and variety of fabrics. The challenges are fine skills are becoming harder to find .
Even though the space in contemporary in many ways with it’s minimalistic woodwork and use of earthy toned ocher and rust textiles, there are Gujarati architectural elements that balance the modern and traditional. The inclusion of outside area with the inside, makes the experience more nurturing as one finds themselves close to nature and comfort. My host shares that there are more than 80 trees that were planted by the residents and the flora invites fauna like peacocks, parrots and even monkeys. The space is inclusive of all it’s residents and the blending of humanity with nature, fills the space with a lot of positive energy and inspiration for an artist who chooses to stay here. I enjoyed a cup of warm coffee and a moment of afternoon sunlight through the white curtains, taking back an experience that would remain special.
Bougainvillea, the Creative Veranda
Run by Ishita Parikh, bougainvillea invites exhibitions from high art to craft, established as a venue for generating conversation among artists, artisans, makers and the public; a veranda for a creative story.
The gallery sits down a lane of Gulbai Tekra, central Ahmedabad, in an apartment left to Ishita by her grandmother. As a means to continue the life and vibrancy of a place filled with memory, it has been transformed into gallery and studio space. The split levels of the apartment work to separate private working spaces from public gallery, which opens into a cozy garden that occupies the corner of the plot, nestled against the street.
We spoke to Ishita Parikh, to understand her views on contemporary design culture.
Start of a Journey
I collaborated with my brother who is a photographer to curate my first show and open the space to public. Initially it was an abstract idea, what I wanted the space to be. I wanted to collaborate with a few who met the sensitivity and aesthetics of the space. So far I have invited fashion and wellness brands and also held some art and cultural evenings like the Red Dress Project where a Brazilian kathak dancer who travels the world and addresses global issues through her performances.
With my past experience of being a Designer in Gujarat, I had access to the many incredible approaches and experiments that people are making here and around India, and opening the gallery was a way for me to bring these distinctive people and their work together. As a curated platform, the gallery connects creatives to a wider audience in Ahmedabad.
Bougainvillea is not a store. It’s a cozy venue for events, whose layout allows multiple modes of exhibition for many media – from ceramics to painting, clothing to Jewelery, furniture and workshops. At the same time, as a transformation of a modern apartment, with a careful link to private garden, each show is presented as a place inhabited, rather than a set of objects on display.
People are more conscious and aware of what is available, and at the same time, there is a growing market for individual designers and a recognition of the value of work happening here in India. This increasing visibility has worked together with varied client groups in different areas. I bring my own aesthetic to the curation, which also hones the expectation for what comes to Bougainvillea.