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Paisley Is a Street

Art Gallery of Mississauga, 2013
Textiles on loan from the Canadian Textile Museum


In this exhibition, the paisley shawl designates the extraordinary craft from the valley of Kashmir in the Himalayas. The form of a paisley is often described as a droplet, kidney or leaf motif originating from India, Pakistan and Persia. The pattern however has appeared in textiles throughout Europe, and later on, the rest of the world. Both woven art and a cultural document, the shawl has a history that references technical ability, conceptual thinking and a distinctive aesthetic narrating a design genius that has impacted global trade for centuries.

Paisley is also a street name in Mississauga. 58% of the social fabric in the city speaks Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi among other global languages. In Mississauga, therefore, the form of the paisley references a kind of cultural history to some of the population, as well as may serve as a homing device. Even the city streets are emblematic of this pattern; Mississauga is seen by many as a suburban landscape, where the cul-de-sac creates a paisley or mango shape in the urban fabric of the city. The paisley shawl and the ensuring manufacturing address in a conceptual manner the travel, as well as the locational shift, from its origin in the Kashmir to Scotland and beyond. A defiant act of true colonial ownership. A truly global traveler, paisley is a potent metaphor for the cultural fabric of Mississauga.