The World of Ajrak
Many crafts have existed in harmony with nature for centuries, long before labels like sustainable and environment friendly became en vogue. Ajrak is one such craft.
Native to Sindh*, Ajrak is a block printed cloth with deep crimson red and indigo blue background (defined by using some white and black), bearing symmetrical patterns with interspersed unprinted white motifs. It is one of the oldest, most sophisticated and complex techniques of resist printing methods known to mankind.
Ajrak printing deserves a page in history for itself to recount the remarkable process, where on a single fabric, resist printing is combined with convoluted dyeing techniques, which is then carried out on both sides of the fabric in perfect cohesion. This process is repeated multiple times, to ensure colour brilliance, without compromising on the sharpness of motifs. One Ajrak shawl, printed in traditional way with natural dyes, can take up to 30 days.
Ajraks are usually about 2.5 to 3-meters long, mostly made in cotton and sometimes in silk for special occasions. Men use it as a turban, a cummerbund or wind it around their shoulders or simply drape it over one shoulder. Women use it as a dupatta or a shawl and sometimes as a makeshift swing for children.
They are also often presented as gifts of hospitality to guests and presented to the person deemed highly respectable. Many prominent politicians from Sindh publicly wear ajraks, including the deceased former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.
* Sindh is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. Located in the southeast of the country, it is the third largest province of Pakistan by area and second largest province by population after Punjab, with Karachi being it’s largest city.
Picture courtesy Azaan at myaesticworld.