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Juxtaposing the splendor of travel with splashes of art; Colour Journey weaves a motley of narratives to take you on an expedition through the hues of our country. Navigate the plains and plateaus to see a kaleidoscope of crafts comes alive – from scattered work desks to brightly coloured homes.
Meandering through the twists and lanes of a little village in Kutch, open homes strewn with sacks of grain, pigments of different colours, and stacks of fabric line the streets. Sidik Khatri, the head of the last few practicing Rogan artists is seen swirling a stick, painting intricate patterns seamlessly as the paint begins to transfer onto the cloth. Without a pencil sketch or chalk drawing to dot the canvas, the Khatris tell their stories with free-form geometric designs.
In another home, across Kutch’s colourful lanes, an artisan sits in front of his hathsal (hand-operated loom) weaving threads to life. Forming an integral part of Kutch’s culture, wool and cotton shawls have exchanged many hands; just as the Kharad craft has woven its way around for 100 years. Similar to Rogan artists, these artisans translate the visuals in their head to the threads without sketches.
An important part of the art and craft of Kutch is self-reliance and the integration of daily tasks with detailed handicrafts. Goat and sheep rearing and fishing are a part of their daily routine. While wool from goats lays the base for Kharad weaving, boats for fishing are often handmade by the locals and vegetable dyes are used to soak the threads with colour.
But in Kutch, it’s never just about one craft. Every nook comes alive with skilled artisans and often environment-friendly crafts. One of Kutch’s oldest traditions is its way of block printing. Over 400 years old, Ajrakh has strung together people and homes through the darkest days. In 2001, when an earthquake made its way to Bhuj, homes in Dhamadka village crumbled. But with the craft inked in their memories, the Khatris practicing Ajrakh set up the blocks at their new homes in Ajrakhpur.
While chemical dyes seem to be seeping into stores, natural dyes that exude calming colours are still the choice for Ajrakh prints. From wooden blocks to preparing the cloth and repeating the patterns within a grid, the tedious handmade process ensures that no two prints are alike. Colourful Rajai embroidery is another craft that stitches the culture of Kutch together. Raniben Ratilal Bhanani, founder of the Kala Raksha spends her days teaching the community traditional embroidery while also practicing her own craft. Artisans spend their days exploring ways to innovate while remaining authentic to their craft making their way to shawls and blankets.
Every wall in Kutch echoes legends – from families who have kept traditions going even though quicker modern methods fill the markets, to connoisseurs of art who continue to embrace and adorn their walls with crafts made over days of labour and love. Residues of colourful threads, dyes and tools unfold on the warm sands every evening, as the sun plays with the skies in a red-orange dance inviting people from around the world to soak their feet in some handmade Kutch magic.
Vikas Munipalle The Rann of Kutch was part of the expeditions of Season 1 of Colour Journey. There have been 4 successful seasons of Colour Journey since. For all the stories of this Season, visit https://www.asianpaints.com/colourjourney/season1
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