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Bringing together the Block printers and dyers of Kachchh and Khamir, our exhibition ‘Kachchh Ji Chhaap’ is now open!

The exhibition is an attempt to tell the story of prints and print making as it unfolded from the time it was practiced on the banks of the Indus to its many facets today. Kachchh Ji Chhaap is an intricate tale of the craftsmen, bringing together narratives of their lives, their milestones and their challenges.

The Exhibition will be held at the Khamir Campus from 7th December 2013 to 28th February 2014.

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“How do you draw a camel?” A very valid question if one is trying to describe Kachchh in typical pictures. We are in our new second home, Ajrakhpur. Working on the poster for the upcoming exhibit. Rather than designing something on the computer, we want to print it on real cloth, fill the poster with life and real colour. So we went to design the poster together with Rauf and Khalid and especially Khalid, who would leave laughter lines on our faces.

Rauf is currently our source number one, who is accompanying us to visit many artisans across the region and helping us to connect to the Khatri community. Khalid, also a Blockprinter from Ajrakhpur, whom we met for the first time a few days back. A less worded, simple man. The kind of type I maybe would not recognize if he was walking by. Rauf told me he was the craziest man here in Ajrakhpur, I had some problems to imagine that “big boy” with the “I can not harm any fly” eyes to be the fanciest artisan around. But I was wrong. As soon as he started showing his pieces Krazy Khalid showed his face.

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His pieces are different from everything we have seen until now. He does not care about traditional pattern, rules and the design of his ancestors.  He has his own head.  When everyone would print in the day he would print at night, when everyone bets on traditional pattern he would invent his own way of drawing. His own remark to his work: “There is no meaning at all, I am only taking some Blocks and putting them together to see whats happening.”
A real teaser. Stunned, amused and excited we decided to design the poster for the exhibition together with him.
We go the following day to his workshop.

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Do we want something simple or complex? Should we layer it with colours and motifs? Should we use traditional blocks or make our own drawings?

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What followed was a full day of work and play. Various ideas and laughing fits later we created several prints.

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We used a resist dye on canvas cloth that we would later transform in colour by dyeing the cloth in indigo and red ( the traditional colours of blockprint)

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Especially proud we are of the hand drawn camel and the little newspaper silhouette buffaloes which should represent the landscape of Kachchh.

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So graphic designing with the artisans = success!
And what does the final design look like? You will see soon here on Made in Kachcch!

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Abdul Rauf and Mansukh, both Khatris, both Blockprinters, but two men who could not be more contradictory.
Rauf, the businessmen. He knows about the value of his craft, he knows how to sell it, how to present it. He knows why it is important to preserve his craft.

And Mansook? He considers himself as a laborer, is working for the same customers since he started, the same pattern, the same cloth. He has never visited other Blockprinters, never came out of Bela and had never met Rauf…Until Now.

“So, what are you doing in Ajrakhpur?” asks Mansukh.

This is the first conversation between two worlds who are rooted in the same thing but couldn´t be more different. Who they are? What is their story?

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Bringing together the Khatri Blockprinters of Kachchh – The Blockprint Collective – coming up soon in December 2013 at Khamir

maldhari proverbThis Maldhari Proverb probably summarizes the life of a nomadic pastoralist. A life of discipline guided by nature and their animals, a life driven by tradition and culture, a life that leaves behind such a tiny footprint on land. Here is the Biocultural Community Protocol of the Camel Pastoralists of Kachchh.

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Also read World Camel Day

skylinepngI recently met a tourist from the Philippines who came to visit Kutch and discover the incredible landscapes and people. She was having a wonderful experience. However when it came to her visit to Bhuj city, her first reaction was : “Yes Harmirsar lake is nice, but Bhuj is so dirty!”
I did not know what to say…

Kutch is an eventful region, for the best or for the worst, and its capital, Bhuj knows it better than any other city here.

Heavily destroyed in 2001, its citizens stood up and succeeded in rebuilding the foundation of what has become a fast growing city. It is now facing the same challenges as many others of its kind in India:

How can the city grow in an harmonious manner, including all the layers of the population?
How does one answer the basic needs of the citizens in areas of energy, water, infrastructure, waste management?
How should we approach the ancestral culture, knowledge and tradition as a strong basis for innovation and development?
How do we encourage economic growth without jeopardizing the environment and the existing rich fabric of livelihood activities?

These thoughts and more led to the birth of Bhuj Bole Chhe, which literally means Bhuj Is Speaking (in Gujarathi). The Bhuj Bole Chhe team believe it is the responsibility of each and everyone of us – citizens of Bhuj, to work together and doing that can be fun too!

That is why they are starting a website, a common platform for everyone in Bhuj to share their stories, ideas, concerns, information and also take action for their city.
It can be fun and their are so many ways in which one can participate : starting with sharing old photos of the city, sharing the tales and legends from our grandparents, sharing some creative ideas we have for the city, organizing a “street cleaning” event with friends in the community… the only limit is your imagination!

This initiative was started by 5 organizations which have been working in Bhuj for a few decades already : Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT), Hunnarshala foundation, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Sahjeevan, Urban Setu (Kutch Nav Nirmav Abhiyan).

The Bhuj Bole Chhe adventure will officially begin on the 7th of April in the evening, at the heart of the city : the Hamirsar lake. I invite you to join and start sharing your ideas! Until then, I will let you have a sneak peak of the logo that I worked on for this exciting step that the city is taking!
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Visit the website here : http://bhujbolechhe.org/en

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