Showing posts with label Textile art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Textile art. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Ajrak: The Ancient Art of Block-Printing and the Pride of Sindhi Culture

Sindhi Ajrak is a traditional textile art form that originated in the Sindh province of Pakistan and is also practiced in parts of India. It is a type of block-printing that uses stamps to create intricate patterns and designs on fabric, usually cotton or silk. The colors used are mainly deep indigo, rich crimson, white and black, which symbolize the elements of nature: sky, earth, water and fire. Ajrak is more than just a cloth; it is a cultural icon of Sindhi identity and heritage, and a sign of respect and hospitality. Ajrak is worn by both men and women, as shawls, turbans, dresses, scarves or dupattas. It is also used as a decorative item, such as a tablecloth, a wall hanging or a bedspread.

A colorful image of a Sindhi Ajrak, a traditional textile art form from Sindh, with the words “Sindhi Ajrak” in white.
Sindhi Ajrak

     The word ajrak (اجرڪ) comes from the Persian words ajar or ajor (اجر), meaning brick, and -ak (ک), meaning little. This refers to the small brick-like patterns that are common in ajrak prints. The history of ajrak can be traced back to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished in the region around 2500 BCE. A bust of a priest-king excavated at Mohenjo-daro, one of the major cities of the civilization, shows him wearing a garment with a trefoil pattern similar to ajrak. The same pattern has been found on objects from Mesopotamia and Egypt, indicating a possible cultural exchange. Ajrak has been preserved and passed down through generations of Sindhi artisans, who have refined and perfected the craft over time.

     The process of making ajrak is complex and labor-intensive, involving several steps of washing, dyeing, printing and drying. The fabric is first washed with a mixture of soda ash and castor oil to remove any impurities and make it soft and absorbent. Then, it is dyed with natural dyes derived from plants, minerals and insects. The most important dye is indigo, which gives the characteristic blue color to ajrak. Indigo dyeing requires a special fermentation process, in which the indigo leaves are soaked in water and lime for several days, and then the fabric is dipped and oxidized in the solution. The other dye is madder, which gives the red color to ajrak. Madder dyeing involves boiling the fabric with madder roots and alum. The white color is achieved by using a resist paste made of lime and gum arabic, which prevents the dye from penetrating the fabric. The black color is obtained by mixing iron filings and jaggery, which react with the indigo and madder dyes.

     The printing of ajrak is done by hand, using wooden blocks that are carved with intricate designs. The blocks are dipped in the dye or the resist paste, and then stamped on the fabric with precision and skill. The printing is done in multiple layers, with each layer requiring a different block and a different color. The printing process can take up to 15 days, depending on the complexity of the design and the number of colors. The final step is drying the fabric in the sun, which fixes the colors and enhances their brightness.

     Ajrak is a unique and beautiful art form that reflects the rich and diverse culture of Sindh. It is a symbol of pride, dignity and honor for the Sindhi people, who cherish and celebrate it on various occasions. Ajrak is also a source of livelihood and empowerment for many artisans, who continue to practice and promote this ancient craft in the modern world. Ajrak is not just a cloth; it is a way of life.

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#sindhi #ajrak #sindhiculture #blockprinting #naturaldye #indusvalley #culturalheritage #textileart #handmade #sustainablefashion