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Monsoon – The Painted Villages of Hazaribagh

Inspiration can be found anywhere, and in my work I always aim to pay homage to the beauty that comes from the four corners of the world. ‘Monsoon’, a wallpaper I designed as part of my collection with Christopher Farr, is one such design where its inspiration truly touched me.

A graphic grasscloth wall covering, the idea for ‘Monsoon’ truly came to life in the tribal villages of Hazaribagh in northeastern India.

Photo credits of the wonderful Hazaribagh to Deidi von Schaewen

In Hazaribagh, mud homes are adorned with lyrical, graphic murals known as Khovar. These designs are painted by the women of the village as part of a traditional annual ritual symbolising fertility and taking place each spring during the tribe’s marital season.

The technique in which these wonderfully figurative scenes are painted is called ‘sgraffito’. A layer of dark charcoal earth is applied to the exterior of the mud homes and left to dry. The walls are then covered with a pale kaolin clay. Before this coat of lighter coloured earth dries, the women use their hands to brush and scrape away the lighter earth, turning the walls of their homes into large folkloric canvases. 

I was drawn to the scale of the black and white silhouettes, rich with expression and raw beauty, but I was also touched by the transience of the pieces. Every year when the annual monsoon rains arrive, the murals are washed away, leaving behind a blank canvas for the year to come: hence the name of my Christopher Farr wallpaper. Their ephemeral quality made these murals all the more special and it inspired me to create a wallpaper to pay tribute to these artworks with their short life span.

‘Monsoon’ comes in three colour ways, a subtle Ecru, a cobalt blue and a more traditional charcoal colourway.  I chose to print ‘Monsoon’ on a grass cloth to provide a more raw and textural background rather than a traditional wallpaper.

We used ‘Monsoon’ in our Lafayette dining room at Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. In windowless rooms, I always love to transport people and allow them to step into another world. I paired the wallpaper with a set of vintage maps in perspex lining one wall and a neoclassical gilded mirror to bring an eclectic touch to the room.

I hope this post transports you across lands and oceans as it did for me when I first discovered the wonders of the painted forest villages of Hazaribagh.

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