There are numerous ways to view coffee and cotton in India—we can celebrate their pervasiveness in our lives, luxuriate in the feelings that good coffee and cotton elicit in us, or examine their cultivation through the lenses of history and labour.
It’s perhaps unfortunate that an ongoing exhibition highlighting the commonalities and connections between the two focuses exclusively on the first two perspectives, eschewing the political, especially given how strongly the storied crops are associated with colonialism, and at a time when a successful farmer agitation has the potential to alter the narrative surrounding farming and agriculture.
Nonetheless, Raaga: The Harmony Of Cotton & Coffee, a collaboration between the Naandi Foundation, which produces Araku Coffee, and The Registry of Sarees, a research and archival organisation dedicated to preserving India’s textile history (which also supports a weaving project and sells through its commercial arm Yali), is an arresting exhibition of installations that bring coffee and cotton to life.
They’ve created five exhibits around the concept of a sensorium that explore the stories of coffee and cotton through smell, sound, touch, sight, and taste. “Community, identity, and ecology are central to the work of both the Araku and Yali brands and their parent organisations, and these were the keywords we kept in mind while designing the exhibition through a collaborative workshopping process,” says Kshitija Mruthyunjaya, creative head, The Registry of Sarees, who curated the exhibition.