The saree that Shweta Vijay, the former Miss India, wears bears elements of Christianity. If one saree has motifs of Mother Mary, the other one carries images inspired from a church feast. And these designs are spread on the garments in an unconventional manner, which is the key character of designer Jebin Johny’s craft that comes under the label Jebsispar.
The above-described clothes are from his Autumn Winter 17 collection titled Nasrani. The fourteen pieces in the collection delve deep into the history of Syrian Christians in Kerala. “The collection explores the roots of Syrian Christians and how the community developed in Kerala,” says Jebin.
Jebin had a vague idea about the history of Syrian Christians. But, that wasn’t enough to bring out a collection and hence, he did months of research to find facts about the community. “I began the research with my grandparents and then interacted with other aged persons to get an idea about the situation. They narrated to me stories of that era. Then, I travelled to Kochi and talked to people belonging to different Christian communities. And, of course, the internet helped,” he adds.
Quiz him why did he choose this topic, he replies, “Because, I am a Nasrani. It was my desire to understand my roots and it led me to this. The collection is not about the religion, but the community’s evolution,” he explains.
Once the research got over, Jebin conceptualised some ideas, hand-painted them first and then printed them on handloom clothes. Mother Mary, Jesus and his disciples, St Thomas, who is believed to have introduced Christianity in Kerala, Margam Kali, the traditional Christian dance form and excerpts from Genesis, form a part of his garments.
“I have grown up watching Margam Kali and it is fading now, which caught my fancy. I have brought the dancers onto the cloth. The Genesis idea sprung from my Vatican memories. When I travelled to the Vatican, I had seen Michelangelo’s painting Genesis there,” says Jebin, who sells his designs online, primarily via Facebook and Instagram.
At a time when religious sentiments are hurt pretty easily, Jebin has no such qualms. He doesn’t think his project would harm anyone. “I have asked this question to myself and found no harm in doing it. I see it as an art,” he says....