Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Jhando Art

Young Aslam displays his art work (bedspreads sheets, table cloth, wall hangings, a melee of colour and an extravaganza of design) in Thatta Kedona show room at Lahore under the approving gaze of Dr. Senta Siller. Aslam needs no coaxing to display the finished pieces. As quickly as he spreads his art pieces, he rattles off the names. Persian 1, Persian 11, Masjid Wazir Khan, the palm tree, peacock palm, dancing parrots, the elephant tram and six peacocks, also naming the prestigious places where these designs are in use at the moment.

Aslam represents fourth generation of the family carrying forward the art of block printing that is at the verge on extinction. Block printing represents an age when mastery over art was the struggle of a life time of hard labour and Aslam does not seem to forget this philosophy even thought he has ambitious to innovate and diversify the art of his forefathers in a big way.

Jhando, the master craftsman exported hand painted and printed cottons and silks and velvets to agencies in London and New York. An international nomenclature some seventy years ago and now Calico Prints in Lahore is representing the family name and craft which once enjoyed international repute. Aslam is carrying the tradition further.

Indeed today Aslam with his skill of colour and stroke work, epitomizes an art technique which Jhando had carried to the pinnacle of perfection. Jhando -- the legendary great grandfather of Aslam -- was of course a figure of epic stature so to say. It was he who left to the family a collection of over twenty two thousand blocks drawn from diverse cultures like Muslim, Mughal and Punjabi cultures and Hindu mythology. The grandfather was illustrious too to be sure with his collection of awards and accolades kept zealously safe even today in velveteen cases.

Block printing is a very fine art that has matured over time. So intricate are the patterns that a single motif may need anything from two to twelve blocks to complete the details. Different block motifs cater to different colours in the same pattern. All this requires dexterity of hand to prevent them from running the other. The grand finale of course is the intricate brush work. Fashioned from local needs these indigenous brushes with all their quaintness high light of the motifs.

It goes without saying that Aslam’s exotic collection that I saw at Thatta Kedona is a treat for eye. Ironically, block printing is a cultural heritage reduced to penury under the influence of a mechanized industrial society and bulk production phenomenon. Yet one has to see it to believe the richness of this art from which even in its quaintness excels the grandeur of modern printing.

Preservation of the craft is a very noble passion but there is a difference in the preservation methodologies and objectives. “It is different to preserve the ancient cultural heritage for the sack of its perpetuation as an art and to do it for commercial purposes,” says Dr. Norbert Pintsch. Thatta Kedona is trying to patronize in order to preserve this (and many more) arts for the sack of those arts in their own original contexts.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:00 AM,


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