The Banjara, as an ethnic group, were the site of conflict between colonial and tribal powers during the reign of the British Raj in India. Medieval merchants operating on a grand scale, the Banjara controlled most inland transport routes through the deployment of pack trains of up to one-hundred thousand laden oxen. Construction of railways and paved roads ended Banjara autonomy and the group were criminalized by the British in 1871. The Indian subcontinent, however, is far from homogenous and many Banjara maintain their distinct identity.
For the Banjara, embroidery is inscribed within a set of oppositions: the communal and the individual, the historic and the contemporary, the traditional and the modern. Materials, motifs, colours, and execution are combined to create utilitarian artifacts that have both talismanic and auspicious powers: works are made to act as highly visible displays of skill and belonging.
Textiles of the Banjara: Cloth and Culture of a Wandering Tribe Thames and Hudson 2016