The Making Of An Ajrak

Sindh and the Sindhi culture are known for the ajrak. This is a not just a simple garment or a shawl draped around one’s shoulders, it is a mark of respect. It is worn by people in villages of Sindh in their daily lives, on important social occasions like weddings etc.; and it doesn’t end there, the ajrak is also presented to people as a sign of honor and hospitality.

It is a block printed fabric available in a variety of colors including red, blue, black and green. The dyes used in its production are natural. Since textiles in general, and the ajrak specifically fascinate me, I decided to pay a visit to a place where ajraks are made.

I didn’t have to look far for it, I found a place in Bhit Shah in the district of Matiari, 130 miles away from the city of Karachi. The owner was very courteous and hospitable and offered us not only water but food as well. Despite being busy, he was kind enough to walk us through the ongoing process of ajrak printing in his workshop. The whole process of making a complete batch of ajraks takes around 40-41 days.

First of all, wooden blocks which have the specific pattern etched on them are dipped in dye and, a design is created on a plain white fabric which could range from cotton to lawn or even silk. The block print can be in 2 or 3 different colors.

Once the design is completed, blocks are dipped in a straw colored fluid and those designs are made wet. After that, chaff or bhoosa as it is locally called, is dusted over it. It is left to dry so that it sticks to the design to be preserved.

Lastly, the ajrak is dyed into its base color. The chaff protects the block printed part. For dyeing purposes, there was a mud oven with a metal basin on the top. This step wasn’t taking place in the shop at the time I was visiting.

My visit ended with buying a few ajraks, which came as no surprise.



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