Interview with Krittika Narula

  • Curator and textile specialist of the National Crafts Museum, New Delhi

    Krittika Narula in the exhibition «Sculpted Sound»

    What do you think about this exhibition?

    Wonderful! The exhibition is visually engaging and draws you in gently. I especially liked the way there are several levels of information available: one can go from a visual enjoyment of the displays and graphics; to the explanations offered in the gallery; to the music playing in the galleries (translation also available on the walls) and then take a closer look at the Santal culture through the informative catalogue. It creates a dialogue that will continue and deepen with the Cooperation Project.

    What do you take home as in idea to follow up / inspiration?

    I think it is very impressive the way the multi-disciplinary team at the Rietberg Museum involving curators, designers, conservators and researchers works together. The concept is quite cohesive and “evolves” rather than moves step by step from one team to another. I think this is something we hope to be able to do at the Crafts Museum. 

    What is for you the meaning of a cooperation project between India and Switzerland related to these stringed instrument from India?

    The Cooperation Project for me means being able to do more than what either of the two institutions can do separately. This is an opportunity to be able to pool resources to come up with projects that add to the understanding of a culture that is relatively less known but has a lot to offer. With the Rietberg’s acquisition a large number of banam instruments have been collected together in one place. 


  • I think this is an opportunity to not only study these instruments but also the culture around them. As the Crafts Museum mandate is to foster a deeper understanding of Indian cultural traditions this is a huge opportunity to collaborate, share and do some new research.

    I think it is an opportunity for the Rietberg to know more about what a precious collection it has and to be able to offer this information to its visitors. For the Crafts Museum, this is an important step in collecting information and raising awareness about Santal culture. Sharing more information about the culture is bound to bring in more respect and appreciation for it. This will help world culture as a whole and can move beyond just an Indo-Swiss collaboration.

    Should museums cooperate with research institutes, such universities and why?

    I feel that research institutes should be an integral part of every museum’s research initiative. This not only ensures that the Museum’s collection remains a dynamic body that is regularly being seen, presented and interpreted but also students get the chance to work with actual objects and be in that world that they choose to study. They both should a part of the same ecosystem that helps them achieve their goals.

    What could be the impact of an exhibition on Indian tribal art in a national museum in India?

    For the Crafts Museum I think such an exhibition would bring Santal art and culture into focus and help preserve not only the Tangible aspects but also the intangible ones through documentation and dissemination. In terms of Santal crafts it is important for the museum to introduce the work of Santal artists so they can continue their work by finding new markets. This will no doubt be a moment of pride for the Santal craftspeople and the general community. This sense of pride remains important in preserving and documenting culture and is bound to help.

    At this time Indian lifestyles are rapidly changing the fewer craftspeople produce tradition instruments and fewer still perform in the traditional style. This time in history is therefore relevant as not only the “last” opportunity to capture the traditions but also document this “moment of change” which is usually a dynamic time in any society, without judgment, so that Santal society may be better understood in terms of its history and its culture at this moment in time.