Ajrak of Sindh - A hallmark of the Indus Valley civilization, the province of Sindh....this ancient artwork is made from vegetable dyes with block prints in navy blue on maroon background traditionally. The vibrant patterns when added with some hand embroidered thread work, turn into pieces of art. These can be used as throws, bed sheets and table covers.
It is traditional in Pakistan to present it to their respected guests, a symbol of honor and prestige. This can be worn as the traditional head wear or as a shawl. The region has known this particular work of art since ancient times, also called Ajruk.
The preparation of Ajrak is in several stages, starting from the basic cotton cloth that is then bleached in a very rustic and ancient manner - using camel dung, water and seed oil. The cloth is left for a week or more in this mixture to make the fibers soak the oil in. The cloth is placed on a hot vat fired by wood, covered with a thick blanket to contain the steam. The piece of cloth is then dyed in the traditional colors of navy blue and maroon using stamps made from wood to put patterns on the cloth. The cloth is left to dry under the sun for days after which it is again processed with more oil. The cloth that is being dried in the sun is sprinkled with water to keep it moist. It is then dyed with indigo by the master dyer himself.
The cloth is washed extensively by thrashing the fabric on the ground till all residue of the processing materials is thoroughly washed out and the white parts of the fabric become visible. The cloth that is being dried in the sun is sprinkled with water to keep it moist. It is then dyed with indigo by the master dyer himself. Repeated drying and drenching make the colors deeper and color-fast.
After drying the thoroughly washed fabric it is soaked in oil, dried lemon, water and molasses. The next dye to go onto the fabric is red in color. The artisans dip the fabric again and again till they achieve the desired red color. With wooden blocks the patterns are carved by the artisans that are experts in the trade and to whom the craft has been handed down from generation to generation. The wooden blocks are then used like block printing on the previously processed and dyed fabric.
Embroidered motifs are added to add value and beautify this vibrant length of material. The pieces are further adorned with sequined work and beads to give it a more festive look.
Golden thread-work is added for adding to trousseaux. Other than home textile, it can also be stitched as Shalwar Kameez, the traditional wear of women of Pakistan - with a beautiful Ajrak dupatta (scarf) to match.
To view more designs visit the online store Sindh Crafts.