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Indian Jewellery from Oppi Untracht's Collection

19
Mar '08
Design Museum exhibition is scheduled to be held on March 19 and will run till June 1, 2008.

Oppi Untracht who once left New York and settled down in Porvoo, is known in Finland for his great collections of traditional Indian crafts, which have been seen as selected examples or complete settings on shows in museums. This time Design Museum is showing his remarkable collection of Indian traditional silver jewelry.

"As an experienced goldsmith I found the inventiveness of a pioneering exhibition of Indian crafts overwhelming at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1954. I had no idea that I would ever get to visit India, or that its arts would ultimately become the central interest of my life.

This exposure planted the seed of curiosity that constantly grew. In 1957 I succeeded in receiving a Fulbright Research Grant to study the surviving crafts of India, in particular its jewelry and metalwork.

The significance of traditional jewelry involves the messages it expresses. These depend very much on the potent symbolism embodied in their design. Factors as significant as the form and materials used act to identify the wearer's religion, caste, and tribal origin.

Design subjects are considered auspicious because they are believed to provide a wearer with good luck, or they may have apotropaic properties. Another concept involves the desire to propitiate departed benevolent spirits of one's ancestors who are thought to provide them with protection.

Jewelry is also used to recognize a specific life stage arrived at by an individual. At such a time jewelry appropriate to the occasion is presented to that person during the performance of a rite of passage ritual, i.e. on passing from adolescence to maturity and adulthood, upon marriage and becoming a householder, and at the birth of a baby.


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